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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Weather-related natural disasters are on the rise, and AVs could become powerful tools for activating response systems and for collecting and sharing data, news and warnings.

Why it matters: Connected AVs could contribute to new emergency response networks by disseminating critical information, routing people away from disasters and possibly even dispatching emergency AVs on optimized routes.

Background: Fully autonomous vehicles will need to do advanced computing onboard to synthesize sensor data, run self-driving software, and communicate with other vehicles, objects and systems in real time. That technology could potentially collect and transmit data on driving conditions and disaster reporting as well.

Where it stands: Early iterations of these systems exist, but typically run on smartphones or other connected devices brought into the car to supplement current vehicle capabilities. Eventually, this technology could be embedded directly in AVs, making it possible for autonomous vehicles to respond immediately to events.

  • Metro21: Smart Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University has used dashboard mounted smartphones to collect and assess images of hillsides to track and anticipate landslides. This technology could be used to predict landslides and route vehicles around them.
  • Israel's United Hatzalah has developed technology that alerts emergency responders within a certain radius and optimizes ambulance routes. It was used during the Gorkha earthquake in Nepal and Hurricane Matthew in Haiti.
  • The Wyoming Connected Vehicle Pilot project uses vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity run on mobile devices to broadcast storm alerts and road conditions on I-90.
  • Waze has partnered with a software company to develop a real-time crash alert system and with the Israeli city of Ramat Gan to facilitate safer evacuations during earthquakes. After a highway bridge collapse in Atlanta, Georgia, Waze leveraged their mobile app to provide updates to local users.

The bottom line: Some of the benefits of this technology could be available in the near term in connected cars, but autonomous vehicles could ultimately offer optimized responsiveness and passenger safety during storms and natural disasters.

Karen Lightman is executive director of Metro21: Smart Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

Go deeper

Updated 50 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Senate action on stimulus bill continues as Dems reach deal on jobless aid

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democratic leaders struck an agreement with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) on emergency unemployment insurance late Friday, clearing the way for Senate action on President Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package to resume after an hours-long delay.

The state of play: The Senate will now work through votes on a series of amendments that are expected to last overnight into early Saturday morning.

Capitol review panel recommends more police, mobile fencing

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

A panel appointed by Congress to review security measures at the Capitol is recommending several changes, including mobile fencing and a bigger Capitol police force, to safeguard the area after a riotous mob breached the building on Jan. 6.

Why it matters: Law enforcement officials have warned there could be new plots to attack the area and target lawmakers, including during a speech President Biden is expected to give to a joint session of Congress.

Financial fallout from the Texas deep freeze

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Texas has thawed out after an Arctic freeze last month threw the state into a power crisis. But the financial turmoil from power grid shock is just starting to take shape.

Why it matters: In total, electricity companies are billions of dollars short on the post-storm payments they now owe to the state's grid operator. There's no clear path for how they will pay — something being watched closely across the country as extreme weather events become more common.