Missoula considers self-driving car technology
MISSOULA, Mont. - Technology is constantly growing, and Missoula is looking for ways to grow and to be tech infused. Officials are looking at the possibility of bringing self-driving cars to the city soon. "I really would like to see automated cars here, because I feel like we have a real need for it here; we live in a college town," said Leah Harley. Not everyone's a fan of the idea. "When you are little, what do you want? You want to learn how to drive. There is no way to get around things but do them," said Doug Darko. But governments are getting ready. "It's kind of scary and cool at the same time, to be honest," said Missoula's transportation planning manager, Jessica Morriss. Morriss explains the city is monitoring tech changes as cities prepare for self-driving cars. "We are looking to ensure that transportation improvements that we work on today and plan for today will be viable and support those new technologies as they roll forward," said Morriss. You can already find those new technologies in some big cities like Los Angeles and New York. The founder of the Montana Associated Technology Roundtable, Russ Fletcher, expects Missoula will join the crowd. Fletcher sees a bigger picture, one with a fleet of manufacturer-owned cars that you can access. "The car companies themselves have realized that their model of selling cars to individuals will no longer be valid. So what they are doing is partnering with Uber and Lyft and building large fleets of autonomous cars which they will then offer as subscription," said Fletcher. But that makes another problem -- governments bring in money off cars and drivers. "The revenue for cities and counties and states will change. Individuals won't have to license their own vehicles, they won't have to pay parking tickets. They won't have to pay for parking itself," said Fletcher. Although there is no set time or date when self-driving cars may come to Missoula a report by industry experts says the turning point will be at 2021, but could happen as soon as 2019. Morriss believes it will be life-changing. "They are going to be a part of our world, just like smartphones," said Morriss.