Greater Greater Washington


Will driverless cars really slow for pedestrians?

Driverless cars will bring many changes to the way we see transportation. Some will be very good, some bad. But some commentators aren't convinced when I say a huge fight is brewing over how much the road system defers to pedestrians and cyclists or pushes them aside.

Photo by jurvetson on Flickr.

In Mother Jones, Kevin Drum wrote:

[E]ventually you won't even be allowed to drive a car. Every car on the road will be automated, and our grandchildren will be gobsmacked to learn that anything as unreliable as a human being was ever allowed to pilot a two-ton metal box traveling 60 miles an hour.

When that happens, it will be a golden age for pedestrians. Sure, cars won't need signals at intersections, but neither will people.

If you want to cross a road, you'll just cross. The cars will slow down and avoid you. You could cross blindfolded and be perfectly safe. You'll be able to cross freeways. You'll be able to walk diagonally across intersections. You'll be able to do anything you want, and the cars will be responsible for avoiding you. Your biggest danger will come from cyclists and other pedestrians, not cars.
It would be fantastic if this scenario came to pass, but is it realistic? It's certainly possible computers can get smart enough to handle it, but the sticking point here is the words "will slow down."

How much will they slow down? For how many pedestrians? Drum lives in Irvine, California, which has few pedestrians, so perhaps the cars can just avoid the occasional pedestrian. But in urban areas, there are a lot of pedestrians. If everyone crossed whenever they liked, the cars would slow down an awful lot.

In some places, cars would hardly ever get through. In almost any major city's downtown during a busy period, pedestrians are waiting in large numbers on street corners to cross. The only reason cars can get through is because signals govern pedestrian crossings. And when a light is green, often a car has to wait for a gap in the pedestrians or gently nose through to get past.

In Kevin Drum's future urban cores, constantly crossing pedestrians mean that car traffic will not flow at all except perhaps in the wee hours. Anyone who's been involved in a proposal to take away a lane of a road for bikes, or for a road diet, knows that drivers (or, in the future, car riders) will not stand for it.

Drivers are a powerful political force

Just look at, for example, the backlash against a bicycle lane on Prospect Park West in Brooklyn. In a very liberal jurisdiction, a modest and overwhelmingly successful bike lane nevertheless stirred up a few wealthy and well-connected individuals, including the wife of Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), to create an organization and file lawsuits to block the project using any means necessary.

Tea Partiers certain that there is a vast UN conspiracy to force them to live in high rises are opposing even extremely modest state laws creating some incentives for development in dense areas. Do we really think people will let government mandate that nobody is allowed to drive a car by hand, and that pedestrians get absolute priority?

In the DC area, some bicyclists ride on MacArthur Boulevard in Potomac, a narrow and windy road in a low-density area. That's perfectly legal, but there's a constant stream of letters to local press outlets by drivers who are sure it must be illegal to bike there since it slows them down.

Forcing drivers to travel slower would be like telling seniors that we're cutting their Medicare. The political counter-pressure is intense, so much that most transportation planners always take great pains to reassure drivers of how any change won't really slow them down. Even for the pedestrian plaza in Times Square, one of the early promises from the mayor's office was that it would actually reduce car delays.

I can go on. But anyone who writes regularly about transportation has encountered the massive sense of entitlement from drivers. When I'm driving, I hate to be delayed, too, but I squelch this natural impulse because I write about the issues and have context.

It may well come to pass that driverless cars have to travel slower and pedestrians are able to act more freely. But this will create tremendous political pressure to change the social compact over roads to get traffic moving faster once again. And in this, we will see another, more intense variant of the same fight we have today.

Once, pedestrians did walk freely, and children played in the streets. As automobile use proliferated, rising deaths led to campaigns to segregate street space. Our society could have taken one of two approaches: it could have limited drivers, and added legal liability to force drivers to be more careful, or it could get people out of the street. Many places in Europe chose some elements of the former, but America decisively chose the latter: to redefine the street's role in society to move cars faster. I'm certain that in Drum's scenario, there would be intense pressure to do the same.

Who is liable?

One element determining whether driverless cars turn into the Kevin Drum reality or another one is how we treat liability. When a driverless car kills a person, whether due to a human overriding the technology or a failure in the computer system, there will be a lawsuit.

If courts hold that the manufacturer of the car is liable, this will stifle development of the cars. The technology might ultimately be perfect, but it won't be perfect from the start. Manufacturers will ask state legislatures to limit their liability. Already, a number of commentators have called for liability caps or other legal changes which shift the burden away from the manufacturer.

If the legislatures don't agree, then manufacturers will have to move very carefully until they can make the cars virtually incapable of killing anyone. That will likely hinder development in general, and make any self-driving cars travel slower than human-operated cars. Many drivers therefore will turn off computer mode a fair amount of the time, and political pressure will build to change the liability standard. This will be an early skirmish in the battle over the cars' speed.

If states do limit liability, then we'll end up with a different situation. Buyers will want driverless cars that use algorithms like the one the University of Texas team devised that let them move faster. Sometimes those cars will travel close to pedestrians or bicyclists. Most of the time they'll still avoid killing anyone, but mishaps will happen. And like in today's legal world, prosecutors, judges and juries will be very reluctant to impose heavy punishments on someone operating a car who unintentionally kills another.

Then we'll be back to a situation like the early 1900s roads. For people's own safety, officials will start imposing restrictions on pedestrians. It'll start in places like Irvine. If laws won't stop people from walking on highways or crossing diagonally, then they'll build fences, or skybridges, or both.

Today, one argument against restricting pedestrians too much is that not everyone can drive. Seniors and people with disabilities can't operate a car, and many can't afford them. When driverless cars become commonplace, there will also be cheap taxi service, and so it'll be easier just to tell people to call up a car.

Already, many suburban areas are essentially an archipelago of human-accessible islands in a sea of almost-cars-only space. Little will stand in the way of making this other space absolutely cars-only. And why not? After all, without people, cars can use fancy algorithms to interweave with each other and zoom around far faster than they could in 2012.

Driverless cars aren't bad

A number of the responses seem to be reacting to an imaginary variant of my thesis, in which I said that self-driving cars were going to be a unmitigated bad thing. There's a natural tendency to simplify all arguments into "x is great!" or "x is terrible!"

The fact is that autonomous cars are coming whether we like it or not, and like any technological advance, will bring both terrific improvements to people's lives as well as drawbacks.

Driverless cars are sure to lead to big fights. Will they shift the balance farther toward pedestrians, as Kevin Drum believes, or away? I hope the former, but the technology won't magically solve this problem. Instead, we'll have to fight it out through the democratic process, as we do most other issues affecting the public sphere.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 


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I agree with all of this, including the conclusion that automated cars will move around much fast, except when they don't.

by Crickey7 on Mar 8, 2012 12:22 pm • linkreport

In regard to travel times, I always assumed that driverless cars would communicate with each other to maximize travel times. I imagined them all traveling the same speed very close to each other. At stop lights I figured that all of the cars would start moving at the same time and move in unison. It would make sense for a computer manage all of the vehicles in a region. It would know all of the cars that were on the road and where they were going. Then it would throttle speeds and manage stoplights to maximize efficiency. Given that, travel times would be great. I don't think pedestrians ought to be allowed to cross the street wherever and whenever they like.

by Nick on Mar 8, 2012 12:24 pm • linkreport

"Your biggest danger will come from cyclists and other pedestrians, not cars."

TOTALLY agree, and I will go a step further and say this is already the case. As an avid cyclist I have always said that the most dangerous thing out there, to me as a cyclist, is other cyclists. I'm really not too worried about these cars.

by MJ on Mar 8, 2012 12:30 pm • linkreport


by VonniMediaMogul on Mar 8, 2012 12:40 pm • linkreport

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

While I like David arguing against google, for once, I think he is overthinking this. You've got to seperate the driverless technology vs the application. I think the technology will problem make things much safer -- something like the radar system on trucks would elimate the red hook issue. All that is good, expensive, and will probably promote bad human behavior.

In terms of the application, we'll never see 100% usage in the next 50 years, and we'll probably see it a a effort to reduce labor. So buses/trucks will incorparte driveless tech, and those are far easier to regulate than individual driver behavior.

Although there is a large minority that doesn't enjoy driving, there is a larger majority that does. For most americans their commute home is 30 minutes of no phone calls, no spouse, no kids, and just other drivers to vent your anger on.

On the technology, do we even have a computer controlled light system yet?

by charlie on Mar 8, 2012 12:47 pm • linkreport

Perhaps the computer algorithims will need to be 80% safer than the average drive on the road in order to pass the test. How one administers the test is problematic.

Or perhaps bad driver will be required to get computers to drive them. Drunk drivers, intense speeders - you either don't drive or hire a robot.

by David on Mar 8, 2012 12:52 pm • linkreport

As soon as we have driverless cars, a terrorist is going to take one, pack it full of explosives, tell it to drive itself down to some target and then blow it up. Then driverless cars will be banned. BTW, whatever happened to the jetpack I was promised?

by Alan on Mar 8, 2012 12:58 pm • linkreport

The fact is that autonomous cars are coming whether we like it or not

No. That is a prediction. And unless you can see the future, it is very different than a fact.

by David C on Mar 8, 2012 1:30 pm • linkreport

. As an avid cyclist I have always said that the most dangerous thing out there, to me as a cyclist, is other cyclists.

Well, you're wrong.

Perhaps you can point to some bike-bike crashes that led to a fatality (no fair using pro races). Because I can point to hundreds of car-bike crashes every year that do.

by David C on Mar 8, 2012 1:33 pm • linkreport

Meh. I'm still waiting for my jet pack.

by Tom A. on Mar 8, 2012 1:36 pm • linkreport

Round 4, fight...

For the sake of argument, can we concede that vehicles with human drivers won't disappear over night?

by selxic on Mar 8, 2012 1:42 pm • linkreport

All of this is going to make Skynet's job ridiculously easy. Maybe it will just let us get terminally obese.

by Crickey7 on Mar 8, 2012 1:56 pm • linkreport

Prediction: The political will trump the technological.

I think pedestrians will "win" (along with bikes and jitneys) in the increasingly-dense urban cores simply because no matter how smart you make the personal car, it takes up too much right-of-way per passenger (and per parking spot). Performance parking and congestion pricing make sense no matter how smart cars get.

But in the 'burbs and exurbs, I don't think it will be as good as Kevin Drum makes out: do we really want to tell pedestrians that they can be heedless of traffic? It seems to me the ability of vehicles to be smart will always be beaten by people's ability to be stupid.

by Kevin C on Mar 8, 2012 3:45 pm • linkreport

As an avid cyclist I have always said that the most dangerous thing out there, to me as a cyclist, is other cyclists.

Honestly,I say it's pedestrians. Can't tell you how frequently I have to swerve out of the way of jaywalkers who look for cars, but not bikes before stepping out into the road. I'd bet that driverless cars would be every bit as dangerous if I swerved into traffic.

When that happens, it will be a golden age for pedestrians. Sure, cars won't need signals at intersections, but neither will people.

Also, David's correct here. The above phrase contradicts the laws of physics. This won't happen. Street crossings might get *smarter,* but it doesn't make sense for them to go away completely.

by andrew on Mar 8, 2012 4:05 pm • linkreport

Yeah, I think driverless cars will dominate in the short term. Who has the money and clout? People who can afford cars. But there's no reason to think that many streets couldn't be turned into veritable walks in the park. Streets could have different grades, from highway to parkspace, let's say. Streets could also possibly shift grade, depending on time of day and season. The city grid might look something like a checkerboard of alternating quiet and busy streets, with larger arteries carved out for near exclusive car use. Park streets would be drivable, but at very low limits, maybe 10 MPH. Mini and micro cars could be parked on quiet streets; larger shared vehicles would park on more busy thoroughfares.

Basically, I think there are solutions that can make everyone happy. One's hope is that in time (a very long period of time, that is), things will work out that way.

by tresluxe on Mar 8, 2012 7:54 pm • linkreport

What if in the urban environment the driverless cars simply shift to "urban" mode and drive at a pretty constat 10-15 mph (no stops needed). That would probably be slow enough for cars and pedestrians to mix easily - passengers in cars would be like bus riders - going slowly but going and with no control over how fast the car could go. And it isn't at all clear that the actual throughput would be much less than it currently is.

by egk on Mar 8, 2012 8:30 pm • linkreport

I think that David's point is valid. If pedestrians/cyclists never have to wait to cross the street, they won't. They will know that the robocars will stop for them. And they won't bunch up as they do now--they'll cross street randomly, with any gap less than 15-20 feet too small for a robocar to navigate given its programming having to take into account randomness by human actors. At rush hour downtown, there would be virtually no throughput for cars.

by Crickey7 on Mar 8, 2012 9:18 pm • linkreport

I'm with MJ: the great majority of hazardous, hairy situations to me as a biker come from other bikers, not cars nor pedestrians. Cars are predictable and overwhelmingly follow the law. Pedestrians are chaotic but slow and easily to see and slow down for or avoid. Many, perhaps most, other bikers are as chaotic as pedestrians but move ten or fifteen miles per hour instead of two or three, making for rather more surprises.

When the surprises result in collisions, of course they're usually with cars, simply because there are a lot more cars around to collide into.

by davidj on Mar 8, 2012 9:45 pm • linkreport

One thing you're not taking into account is how much more efficiently autonomous vehicles will use roadway space. This will have the effect essentially creating more space. For example, an autonomous car can park itself, so there is no need to have parking near your destination. Just have the car drop you off and go somewhere else until you need to be picked up. So all the land in the downtown core that is used for parking can be repurposed.

We currently have far more streets than we would optimally need, because there is a limit to how complex a route people can find their way on. With autonomous vehicles there is no limit to the complexity of a route, and the number of streets could be reduced.

A typical car is used about 8 hours a week and parked about 160 hours. If you owned an autonomous car, wouldn't it make sense to put it to work for you those other 160 hours driving other people around? Car-sharing will explode. Another way of looking at those 160 unused hours a week is that right now we have 20 times as many cars as we really need, because there's no way of sharing them effectively. An autonomous car that can manage its own sharing would result in a massive decrease in the number of cars, which would further reduce the need for parking.

by Contrarian on Mar 8, 2012 9:47 pm • linkreport

davidj, I don't know where you're biking. But the numbers just don't back up your assertion. Bike-bike crashes that result in a fatality are so rare that I doubt you can find one.

When the surprises result in collisions, of course they're usually with cars, simply because there are a lot more cars around to collide into.

If collisions are usually with cars, then how are bikes the larger threat? That doesn't make any sense. But even on a per exposure basis, bikes are less of a threat.

by David C on Mar 8, 2012 9:54 pm • linkreport

Contrarian, you may be right, but cars that can truly function without a driver are probably a long way off.

I'll assert my baby test again. When a lead engineer on one of these projects will strap their baby into one of these cars Kal-El style and send the car between two randomly chosen points, then I'll start to be a believer.

by David C on Mar 8, 2012 9:57 pm • linkreport

We currently have far more streets than we would optimally need, because there is a limit to how complex a route people can find their way on. With autonomous vehicles there is no limit to the complexity of a route, and the number of streets could be reduced.

Only if the street has no buildings or other destinations along it that people need to reach by car. Are there any such streets? Also, we need lots of streets and intersections to minimize trip distances. Otherwise, people will have to go out of their way to make a connection in order to get to their final destination, like they often have to do when using mass transit or airplanes.

A typical car is used about 8 hours a week and parked about 160 hours. If you owned an autonomous car, wouldn't it make sense to put it to work for you those other 160 hours driving other people around?

For most people, probably not. I don't think most people will be willing to share their car with strangers. Lots of things we own are idle and unused most of the time. We like the convenience of having them immediately available to us when we need them, and we don't like sharing them with people we don't know.

Car-sharing will explode.

Car-sharing will be absorbed into taxis. People who cannot or do not want to have their own vehicle will just call a robocab on their cell phone when they need to go somewhere.

Contrarian, you may be right, but cars that can truly function without a driver are probably a long way off.

The Vice President of R&D at GM predicts a fully self-driving car will be on the market by 2020. That's probably a bit optimistic, but I think they'll almost certainly be available by 2030.

by Bertie on Mar 8, 2012 10:54 pm • linkreport

Please implement these soon so we can stop hearing about "new urbanism", public transportation, density, walkability, and how we're all supposed to ride bikes 40 miles to work each day.

by Betrand on Mar 9, 2012 8:52 am • linkreport

They had better stop for pedestrians, or they'll never be allowed on the streets.

Anyway, I would trust driverless car systems WAY more than I trust the sociopaths that drive on the roads now. The sooner we get steering wheels and gas pedals out of people's hands and feet, whether that's with driverless cars, public transit, or bicycles; the better.

PS - Bertrand, why do you like 40 miles away from your job? That's insane.

by William Furr on Mar 9, 2012 10:26 am • linkreport

I think tresluxe nailed it. The transition period will be long, but once widespread adoption of driverless cars comes to pass, all scenarios are possible and comparing the ways different cities handle the issue, it will be easy to agree on a system the works for everyone.

During this transition period the issue of liability is most important for pedestrian safety, as David pointed out. We need liability caps. I'd disagree though that limiting liability will make it more dangerous for pedestrians "like the early 1900s roads".

We already have restriction for pedestrians that are adequate. And the cars will provide detailed records of every incident, whether it's a minor injury or a fatality, so it will be clear who's at fault. If the car's at fault, there'll be a settlement between the victim and the car manufacturer. As long as these cost are high enough, the problems will be fixed quickly making it much safer than it is now. A win for all.

by Roccy on Mar 9, 2012 11:58 am • linkreport

I'm waiting for the driverless bike.

by Jack Cochrane on Mar 9, 2012 1:11 pm • linkreport

@David C: I'm not sure what "assertion" you think I made that "the numbers just don't back up".

The potential collision situations I encounter most frequently: bikers riding on the wrong side of the street and/or going the wrong way on a one-way street coming at me; and bikers riding past a stoplight that's red for them into my path when I'm going through an intersection on a stoplight that's green for me (these are the hairiest, as the other biker often appears suddenly from behind cars stopped for the very red light he or she ignored). These things happen every week, sometimes several times in one trip.

I can't remember ever encountering a car coming at me on the wrong side of the road or the wrong way on a one-way street. I do see cars running red lights, but very rarely, perhaps once or twice a year, and never into my path (though I suppose if that had ever happened, I might not be here to type about these things). This is, by the way, in DC; I commute between Capitol Hill and LeDroit Park and routinely ride to many other places in or near the District.

I don't doubt that when bike riders actually do collide, it's much more likely to be with cars than with with other bikers. It is still true that most of the situations where I have to actively avoid collision are presented by other bikers.

by davidj on Mar 9, 2012 3:34 pm • linkreport

This assertion: the great majority of hazardous, hairy situations to me as a biker come from other bikers, not cars nor pedestrians.

Perhaps you're an outlier who, for some unidentified reason, has many near misses with cyclists, but bike-bike crashes are incredibly rare. It's also possible that you remember near misses with cyclists better because they last longer, whereas a car that passes too closely is over before you even notice it. Or maybe you're just so used to being passed closely or tailgated that you don't find it "hairy" any longer. You've become accustomed to the risk.

Considering how many drivers speed, your claim that drivers "overwhelmingly follow the law" - which is demonstrably untrue - belies a certain acceptance of hazardous driving as normal.

So it may be that you are more often frightened by the behavior of cyclists (which is an emotional response) but not that they are more often hazardous (which is a measure of danger). You feel more at risk by cyclist behavior, but you aren't. Just as you feel more at risk on a roller coaster than on the walk across the amusement park parking lot - but you aren't.

by David C on Mar 9, 2012 4:23 pm • linkreport

I commute by bike, and while I am consistently annoyed at fellow cyclists who act as if traffic rules don't apply to them, with no real justification other than convenience, I can't say I am in danger because of them.

Unlike the bus driver on Wednesday who forced me out of my lane into the parking lane twice. He informed me at the next light that he was allowed to because there were no bike lanes on that street. Robobuses first!

by Crickey7 on Mar 9, 2012 5:12 pm • linkreport

@David C: I thought I'd identified some of the reasons I have near misses with cyclists. I would add that while wrong-way bikers are usually visible from far enough away to be more of an annoyance than a hazard, the folks popping out from behind cars stopped at red lights are genuinely, not just subjectively, hazardous. Maybe you don't worry about it because you know that actual bike-bike collisions are rare, perhaps even rarer than car-bike collisions when car and bike are travelling parallel to each other -- I don't have the time to dig up statistics and am not sure suitable ones even exist, but I suspect that very few car-bike collisions result from car passing bike but rather that most involve the vehicles traveling in different directions, such as the biker trying to go straight through an intersection at the same time that the car is trying to turn right.

David C, I like most of what you write, so I'm going to leave it at that. Feel free to put it down to my own jaded, subjective perspective, and get back to your (totally justified, even from my jaded, subjective perspective) mocking of driverless vaporware, I mean, cars.

by davidj on Mar 9, 2012 6:06 pm • linkreport

There are a lot of short term effects to think about here.

These will be high end add ons to luxury cars to start with. How will you sell it to people, after all 'my driving is perfectly fine it's all those other idiots that is the problem'. For long distance freeway driving, it would be ideal or the avoidance of falling asleep at the wheel, if you start feeling tired. The only thing is, there needs to be some lock out option that prevents you accidentally switching it off if you did fall asleep.

The other great boon could be drink driving, but again how would that legally be enforced or allowed. I can see loads of people sneakily doing confident in their car even though it remains illegal. I can only see it working on a automated only car which has no manual driving options, or some option that allows you to tell your car that you have had a drink and that lock out manual driving for 8 hours, and that was logged somewhere to avoid getting pulled over.

There could be pressure to make it illegal for people over 70 being allowed to drive manual cars.

Insurance companies could end up making defacto law. The premiums for manual driving would be significantly higher, especially for the elderly and the young.

The main change would be, no one would run a red light, no one would speed, cars would slow down in the rain and snow and fog. They would stop at crosswalks, they would not block the box. No need for road diets or chicanes, speed pillows, the city will mandate a speed for a road and it will be obeyed.

As cars became more accurate, those lanes could be narrower and proper cycle lanes added.

Pedestrians will still be advised to cross at crossings. In slow traffic a pedestrian could negotiate with slow moving vehicles, but it would be stupid to expect vehicles to stop in time if they are going 50mph.

There will not be much sharing of private vehicles. People own them for the convenience, of not only being able to leave when they want, but they can leave stuff in the trunk. Who wants a stranger sitting in your seat spilling crumbs in you seat and changing the presets.

Families in the suburbs may end up with more cars. Both Mom and Dad work, and the third car is the family taxi, linked to Mom's cell or pad, and she can keep an eye on them as it ferries them to friends houses or to hobbies.

In the end a big change will come if auto taxis are cheap enough. It all depends on what percentage a taxi drivers wages make up of the fare you pay, If a ridiculous medallion system still end up soaking up a big chunk of the costs then fares will not fall much.

A cheap auto taxi, would enable urban living and shrink the acreage devoted to parking. Imagine all those big box arterials converted to apartments and businesses with limited structured parking.

Looking further out auto taxis can replace public transport. There is not enough road space and like all rush hours it requires large spare capital devoted to transport workers.

Fares for taxis would be higher in the rush, or they would be more difficult to come by. People will end up taking shared automated mini buses that aggregate trips from one neighbourhood towards a particular destination or just general directions adding and dropping off fares as it goes.

In the future you may want to live within a short walk of an arterial route. More taxis and buses will cruise those streets, the marginal cost to rest of the passengers is lower than someone stuck a mile up some cul de sac in a subdivision.

by Rational Plan on Mar 10, 2012 4:49 pm • linkreport

Issues that need to be worked on and perfected are

1 emergencies where it may be required for a car to speed or a pedestrian to run across a street

2 people/animals darting across roads

3 disabled pedestrians who may not get across a road in the allocated time or the blind who may cross at wrong time due to themselves or guide animal

4 weather (lightning, tornado, sandstorm, fallen tree/pole/whatever etc)

by kk on Mar 11, 2012 6:57 pm • linkreport

Don't worry, kk, I'm sure the "Driverless cars will be here next Tuesday" folks will tell us these issues will be solved by next Monday night.

by Ash on Mar 12, 2012 8:08 am • linkreport

Don't worry, kk, I'm sure the "Driverless cars will be here next Tuesday" folks will tell us these issues will be solved by next Monday night.

The number unnecessary backhanded comments on this thread is astounding. I really don't get why this is such a sensitive topic.

by Roccy on Mar 12, 2012 10:50 am • linkreport

The number unnecessary backhanded comments on this thread is astounding. I really don't get why this is such a sensitive topic.

Nah, I think they provide pithy commentary on the posters who assure us these cars are coming, so we'd better get the heck out their way, unless we want to get flattened by "progress".

by Simon on Mar 12, 2012 1:10 pm • linkreport

I also approve of this acerbic wit and sardonic commentary. Carry on, good sirs!! :)

by ldawg on Mar 12, 2012 3:01 pm • linkreport

What will happen with this is people will get more cut off from the real world in that they will be in a driverless car texting surfing face book and forget about the world around them. At least with a car you have to get out look in front of you and see what is out there.

Well maybe the only good thing that will come out of this is that in the next 70 years the cars will get tired of the humans and revolt or we will suffer a fate like in Wall-E and the cars will run things like in the Cars Movies where the humans are the slaves who built and mantain the highways for them.

by Ocean Railroader on Mar 14, 2012 12:03 am • linkreport

This article was cited in an alarmist ad in Florida, arguing that the driverless cars won't bother to slow for pedestrians.

by Michael Perkins on Aug 13, 2012 9:49 pm • linkreport

Is anyone afraid of a computerized vehicle hitting them?

If one is, then what one should fear is a human-driven car hitting one. Tens of thousands a year die in vehicle accidents in the U.S. Human error is responsible for approximately 93% of accidents.

If I see a car approaching me head on, I'll be hoping there's a robot behind the wheel.

by Jared on Jan 25, 2013 8:50 pm • linkreport

Well then Jared, you clearly have not seen Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

by David C on Jan 27, 2013 9:47 am • linkreport

Interesting article, but if the reality of a technological disruptor such as a driverless car ever comes into mainstream fruition, why continue to stick with other traditional elements? In other words, whose to say now we must still mesh automated cars with moving pedestrians. With newer technologies, we need to break out of our traditional frame of thinking and encounter a new paradigm. With driverless cars, why not create a new framework or structure capable of better capturing its efficiencies. We can create more mixed-use dense communities with automated vehicles in more dedicated "right-of-way" roads, even newer elevated or subterranean networks exclusively for automated point-to-point thoroughfares.

While true things just can't drastically change right away, if we are to best utilize new technologies, it would be better to think two steps ahead instead of implementing new forces of change based only on traditional frameworks.

by John G. on Apr 18, 2014 2:09 am • linkreport

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