September 20, 2016 8:24 pm
Updated: September 21, 2016 7:05 pm

Industry experts propose dedicated lane for driverless cars on highway linking Vancouver and Seattle

WATCH: A couple of high-tech entrepreneurs have proposed a driverless highway between Vancouver and Seattle. The technology is there, but is it practical? Ted Chernecki reports.


The future is here and it is going to be hands-free. High-tech industry experts are pitching the idea to create a driverless portion of highway linking Metro Vancouver with Seattle. They say it would save time, make the commute experience safer, more efficient and perhaps even – drum roll, please – pleasurable.

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The pitch stems from a study by the Madrona Venture Group, authored by company director Tom Alberg and former Microsoft exec Craig Mundie, that looked at the feasibility of the project and say it’s time to seize the moment.

Driverless vehicles are already on the road in some cities and Alberg predicts they will be king of the road in the next five to 10 years. They say rolling out a plan to have a driverless car highway is not just an opportunity to solve traffic problems but would put the Pacific Northwest on the map as a leader.

“Introducing autonomous vehicles over time on the Cascadia Corridor would make us world leaders in innovation worldwide,” says Alberg, who rolled out the idea Tuesday to industry heavyweights like Bill Gates at the Emerging Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference in Vancouver.

The idea is simple to start – dedicate one lane of Highway 99 in Richmond to the I-5 in Seattle to driverless cars. Alberg says it would start with driverless vehicles first sharing the HOV lane with regular cars, and gradually creating an exclusive driverless lane as more cars become autonomous. Eventually only driverless cars would be allowed on the highway during rush hours. Now that might sound radical but “if you put yourself 20 years from now when 90 per cent of cars manufactured are driverless, why not?” Alberg said.

The idea of linking Vancouver and Seattle is not new. For years there has been talk of a high-speed rail that would connect the two hubs giving commuters the ability to move between the two cities seamlessly and quickly. But that idea could take up to 30 years to complete and cost around $30 billion. A driverless highway lane would cost next to nothing.

But how would driverless cars improve traffic? Alberg says the answer is simple but not key to his reasoning. While driverless vehicles can drive closer to each other with automatic breaking and sensors, the main benefit is not speeding up the flow of traffic – it’s really making driving a much more pleasurable experience. In the study Alberg found that most people don’t mind the commute as much as they mind feeling they are wasting time. But on a driverless car highway the frustration of losing hours of your life to traffic would no longer be an issue because, as Alberg points out, you recapture lost time.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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