The Future of Transportation: No Driver Needed

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What used to be science fiction is now closer to reality. Driverless cars are speeding to a road near you, but just how close are we to having driverless cars cruise down our highways in Pennsylvania.

Driverless cars have been cruising along high-tech highways in Hollywood for years, like in the 1990 film "Total Recall."

Newswatch 16 wanted to find out when all of us could hop into a car in our area that’ll drive itself.

“Well, there’s been tremendous progress, but there’s a long way to go,” said Roger Cohen from PennDOT. “The driving environment is incredibly complex, and the cars have a lot to learn.”

To help us learn more about driverless cars, Newswatch 16 turned to Cohen. He’s PennDOT’s policy director and co-chair of the autonomous vehicle policy task force, a.k.a. Pennsylvania’s driverless car guru.

“There’s going to be 70 million more Americans in 2045,” explained Cohen. “Those people are going to require transportation. That’s going to test our capacity.”

Since driverless cars can safely travel closer together, more vehicles can fit on current highways.

Cohen says, “Humans are responsible for 94 percent of all crashes. These vehicles promise over the long term to be much, much safer.”

That could also mean fewer DUIs, better mobility for the elderly and the disabled, and fewer tickets written by police. However, that could also have a somewhat negative impact on the revenue of our communities. The state is taking all that into consideration.

So which car company is leading the driverless charge?

“Tesla has the most aggressive program," Cohen said.

But several others, including Audi, are also in the race.

“It’s a wonderful future," said Charles McFadden, Audi sales manager.

Wyoming Valley Audi in Larksville is already selling high tech rides that are getting closer to being driverless.

“It’s crazy. I can’t believe where we’re going with it,” explained Michael McFadden, a technical specialist at Wyoming Valley Audi.

Michael McFadden gave us a ride in an Audi 35. This sports car can read speed limits, detect vehicles in blind spots, and has something called traffic jam assist. It basically allows the car to move on its own in stop-and-go situations. Plus, it also has a feature called lane assist.

“You can see I don’t have my hands on the wheel. It’s bringing me back to the left,” added Michael McFadden.

It’s not only Audi blazing the self-driving car trail, but also Cadillac. We took one for a spin to find out what it can do.

Marc Vanston with R.J. Burne Cadillac in Scranton took us for a ride in a 2018 Cadillac CT6. It has all the bells and whistles including multiple cameras with one in the rear-view mirror. As for how close this Cadillac is to being driverless, this ride, like some other modern vehicles, can parallel park itself. Once the person behind the wheel finds the right spot.

Vanston added, “I control the gas and the brake, and it does the steering.”

Both cars Newswatch 16 took for a spin start at around $60,000 and still require a driver. So how much will a driverless car cost?

“They’re not bargain basement. That’s for sure,” Cohen said.

But we may not have to pay those high sticker prices. Experts predict we’ll travel company owned vehicles, like a fleet of Uber self-driving cars.

So what do future car passengers think of all this technology? We took that question to Jefferson Elementary Center in Mount Cobb.

“I think it’s pretty weird,” said Ella Geck, a second grader from Jefferson Township.

Cole Boyle from Jefferson Township Elementary says he does not trust the self-driving cars. He says he’d rather drive.

The good news is, the state predicts you’ll still have that option, but may require those who still like to drive to use designated areas kind of like a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane.

Cohen says his best guess, it will be 10 to 15 years before we will be able to ride a driverless car and get on Interstate 81.



  • Taco Salad

    Zero chance the state allows the loss of DUI revenue.
    State smokies will have a hard-on lobbying against this in Harrisburg.

    • warningfakenews

      There’s more revenue to be made in doing away with individual ownership of vehicles. It’s a liberal utopia of state control over every aspect of our lives. It’s not going to implemented in one fell swoop, however, the government types know how to cook a frog.

  • get real

    Driverless cars/trucks? AI ‘bots? Great! The doom and gloom here is unfounded — sort of. The fact is that people (large numbers) will be needed to engineer and program these robots. The bad news: only highly *educated* people will be needed. Two problems there: that means less need for brawn and more for brains. Second: the US (led by the ultra-rich fueled GOP) has decimated its education (and access) at all levels. We are at the bottom of the developed world in every area of science, math etc. That is why our defense contractors currently have to bring in large numbers of engineers and scientists from India, China and Europe to build their smartbombs. Wake up folks — stop watching Fox and start hitting the books. Hit thumbs down all day long — it won’t change the situation and in fact confirms the problem.

    • warningfakenews

      Teachers, doctors, engineers, all have something in common. AI is coming for them and is already there, in many cases. You don’t have safety in engineering, building and maintaining AI, robots, drones, driverless vehicles, phones, or anything. AI and robotic devices can and will do all of it.

      Colleges are a prime target. Expensive, no longer needed to acquire information, and slow to adapt to a changing society. Ripe pickings.

  • warningfakenews

    And you guys at NW16 ought to know, your corporate bosses already have the technology to use AI to gather, write, and report news stories. CGI can be used to take a drop-dead gorgeous model and a stud of a guy who get paid one time to do a photo shoot and the animation could have them believably telling the story, cute little side jokes and all.

    Wouldn’t it be great not to have to drive into work anymore, even in an autonomous vehicle?

  • warningfakenews

    The ability to firmly control your own destiny is slipping through your fingers. Anything that empowers the state through a loss of freedom from the individual should be viewed with great skepticism, and then we need to take action to create a different path.

    Getting on board the already moving conveyer belt seems like it would save a lot of work, until we realize it’s headed to the slaughterhouse.


    Driving schools
    More businesses going down the drain, guess a 12 year old can drive now too.
    Yeah and a car that we don’t own will cost us more in local revenue due to less traffic tickets, just like now, we have cars & trucks that use less fuel, so the fuel tax goes up to compensate for the states lost revenue.
    Isn’t this just great folks.


    when the car or truck is able to determine that a spring was broken on that last pennsylvania gopher hole I might agree they are 20% as safe as a lawfully driving person.

    • yfzse

      that’s about 90% of the usa! seriously though, what happens when these cars decide to go haywire and take you through the mall front door killing people in the process? don’t tell me it cant happen, people cant even design electronics that don’t fail and were to trust these vehicles? remember, these cars are designed and programmed by PEOPLE

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