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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 7 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm lashed much of the East Coast Sunday and Monday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: Authorities in North Carolina confirmed that two people died in a car crash and that they responded 600 vehicle accidents during the storm on Sunday, per the Washington Post.

2 hours ago - Health

CDC director says COVID-19 messaging should have been clearer

Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the messaging around the COVID-19 pandemic and changing guidance should have been clearer.

State of play: Walensky is being coached by media experts and is planning to have more press briefings by herself in order to ensure that CDC is seen as an independent, scientific entity, rather than as a political one, the Journal reports.

3 hours ago - World

UAE asks U.S. to reinstate Houthi terrorist designation after attack

Secretary of State Tony Blinken (left) listens to United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan during a joint news conference at the State Department iin October. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed asked Secretary of State Tony Blinken in a phone call Monday to re-designate the Houthi rebels in Yemen as a terrorist organization, a senior Emirati official told Axios.

Why it matters: Less than a month after he assumed office, President Biden rolled back the Trump administration’s decision to make the designation. He said it hampered humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people. Since then, the Houthis have escalated their attacks against Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region — including an attack Monday in Abu Dhabi.