Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: The (hazardous?) future of cars


Photo by kqedquest on Flickr.
This car really could hit a pedestrian: The dreams of many a science fiction fan have been realized with the news that Google is piloting a driverless car. Google engineers claim this technology will reduce crashes, but the article noted the driver had to disengaged the "autopilot" when a bike made a sudden turn ran a red light in front of their vehicle. Soon reporters could accurately write about cars hitting pedestrians. Update: As commenters have noted, the article also says that the car "seemed likely" to have avoided hitting the cyclist.

More driving distractions or a ban?: Car manufacturers plan new waves of hands-free devices and entertainment systems (like this one) that allow hands-free texting and more. Such features are designed to attract younger buyers, a demographic auto manufacturers are having a hard time reaching. But Secretary LaHood would like to see a total ban on many of these distractions, setting the stage for a big battle. (Bloomberg, Yahoo, Steve S)

Not enough money for transit: Alexandria is proposing higher density in the Beauregard corridor, but ongoing and future traffic problems in the corridor may kill it. The city planned to use taxes from new developments, but currently the projected amount of new tax revenues from higher density is not enough to pay for transit improvements. (Froggie's Blog)

DC spares federal bike funding: All states and DC had to return some transportation dollars to the federal government, and 28 states disproportionally cut ped and bike programs. DC and nine states cut none of these. (Bike League)

More highways not the only choice: WAMU's newly revised Metro Connection's transit segment presented a one sided argument for HOT lanes, saying they are a win for everyone because they have a choice to either sit in traffic or pay the toll. Except they aren't a win for everyone, because people may prefer to spend that highway money on transit. (WAMU, ErikD)

Drill, baby, drill: Gov. Bob McDonnell is continuing with his plans to open Virginia up to off-shore oil drilling, holding a meeting later this week with oil proponent T. Boone Pickens. Sierra Club director Glen Besa told the AP, "He says everything is on the table, but the bottom line is his actions show a commitment to fossil fuels." (WTOP)

An IBM planet?: IBM has a new SimCity-like game called CityOne. However, "solutions" for each problem in the game are either IBM solutions or "do nothing." (Dave M.)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.
Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time
Greatest supporter—$250/year
Greater supporter—$100/year
Great supporter—$50/year
Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
Greater supporter—$100
Great supporter—$50
Supporter—$20
Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

Joshua Davis is currently a student at Northern Virginia Community College and lives in Reston. He writes about development and transportation news in the Dulles Technology Corridor and Tysons Corner areas. 

Comments

Add a comment »

Cars that drive themselves? Sounds like the perfect vehicle for LeCorbusier's Modernist vision of the future. If anything, people will start to react to the ubiquity of technology in our lives. If you can hack in to the Pentagon computers, hacking someones car won't be a stretch. I'll stick to walking, when possible, thanks.

by Thayer-D on Oct 11, 2010 10:23 am • linkreport

From the GGW summary:

... but the article noted the driver had to disengaged the "autopilot" when a bike made a sudden turn in front of their vehicle

From the article:

Christopher Urmson, a Carnegie Mellon University robotics scientist, was behind the wheel but not using it. To gain control of the car he has to do one of three things: hit a red button near his right hand, touch the brake or turn the steering wheel. He did so twice, once when a bicyclist ran a red light and again when a car in front stopped and began to back into a parking space. But the car seemed likely to have prevented an accident itself.

That's a pretty warped way to summarize.

by jcm on Oct 11, 2010 10:57 am • linkreport

The two major landowners that control the land along Beauregard proposed for redevelopment are Duke and JBG. JBG is the furthest along right now. See their plan at http://www.markcenterinfo.com.

by ChrisB on Oct 11, 2010 11:52 am • linkreport

Given how many people step out into traffic w/o looking at the *red* DO NOT CROSS crosswalk sign first up in Baltimore, I'd say reporters would still be inaccurate unless...

"Witnesses at the scene describe the person darting out into traffic when not allowed. 'He musta have a death wish for doing that. There was one gal who stepped in front of a bus and nearly got flattened...'"

by Drake Perth on Oct 11, 2010 1:21 pm • linkreport

Echoing Drake Perth's comment -- I'm a pedestrian and always try to be aware of my environment, but I see plenty of pedestrians -- and I see lots of pedestrians AND cyclists talking on the cell phones while crossing the street or bicycling, often not aware of other cars.

And I see a lot of cyclists who don't act like a car, running through red lights or going against traffic. Makes me wonder about the reference by Google about needing to engage autopilot of the car, was the cyclist making a sudden illegal turn?

by Jonathan on Oct 11, 2010 9:35 pm • linkreport

So who's liable in a crash when the car is being driven by remote?

by Steve O on Oct 11, 2010 9:47 pm • linkreport

How is a sudden turn the same as running a red light? The autopilot might have also needed to be disengaged if a car had run the red light instead of a bicycle. However, I doubt you'd say a "car made a sudden turn." More likely it would have been "a careless driver endangered himself and others by running a light."

I know this is an opinionated/biased blog, and more often than not I agree with the opinions, but flat out misrepresenting the facts takes it a little too far and really tarnishes the credibility of this blog and the community it tries to represent. Either you weren't paying attention when you skimmed the article or you purposely wrote a lie. Either way, it's been commented on twice now, 11 hours apart, and it still hasn't been fixed. That makes me think this was intentional.

Fix it.

by Teyo on Oct 11, 2010 9:50 pm • linkreport

Car manufacturers plan new waves of hands-free devices and entertainment systems (like this one) that allow hands-free texting and more. Such features are designed to attract younger buyers, a demographic auto manufacturers are having a hard time reaching.

That was somewhat interesting, but Holy Crap, talk about burying the lede; here's from the linked story:

Selling cars to young adults under 30 is proving to be a real challenge for automakers. Unlike their elders, Generation Yers own fewer cars and donÂ’t drive much. TheyÂ’re likely to see autos as a source of pollution, not as a sex or status symbol. Motorists aged 21 to 30 now account for 14% of miles driven, down from 21% in 1995.
That's truly an amazing statistic, and bodes well for the future of walkable America. Meanwhile, I got a chuckle out of the auto industry's apparent strategy of getting Gen Y'ers to purchase $30,000 propulsion device for their iPods.

That'll work.

by oboe on Oct 12, 2010 9:42 am • linkreport

jcm -

Yeah, that kind of thing is becoming all too common here. I wonder about the editorial standards, or lack thereof, at GGW.

Also, Dave M. - that's called an advertisement. It's a nifty device that companies have been using for many, many years to try to entice other people to buy their products. Hardly noteworthy.

(I know I've complained about people noting their Captchas before, but mine appears to be in Greek. W.T.F?)

by Josh S on Oct 12, 2010 10:28 am • linkreport

I see lots of pedestrians AND cyclists talking on the cell phones while crossing the street or bicycling

re: "lots of cyclists talking on the cell phones while...bicycling".

Where is this? Because if you're talking about in DC, I call horse-shit. It's pretty rare to see this. To the point where it's pretty remarkable when you see it.

by oboe on Oct 12, 2010 10:32 am • linkreport

Regarding the Alexandria item from my blog, your mention of "taxes from new developments" is not quite accurate. The Commercial Real Estate Tax is what was proposed...it's the only revenue vehicle the General Assembly has given to cities besides the regular property tax. It's an add-on tax on commercial property citywide, not just within the proposed corridor. But even if the entire citywide-collected tax was given to the Beauregard corridor, it wouldn't be enough.

by Froggie on Oct 12, 2010 10:54 am • linkreport

@oboe

Last week along 18th and H street near the World Bank. The light turned red for 18th street, green for H street -- cars started moving, and a cyclist plowed through the red light along 18th street heading south just in front of the cars. He had a hands-free cell phone bud and was also chatting on it.

I've seen it other times around the Foggy Bottom/Farragut West/McPherson Square area. Sadly, sometimes they run the red lights or go against traffic -- without a helmet.

by Jonathan on Oct 12, 2010 5:41 pm • linkreport

Sadly, cyclists talking on cell phones while riding is surprisingly common, although certainly nowhere near as common as drivers doing the same. I've even seen at least one rider chatting on a phone tucked between his ear and his shoulder, which I thought was quite the impressive stunt.

by jimble on Oct 12, 2010 5:56 pm • linkreport

Couldn't find a more recent place to post this, but thought it would go well with the **OUTRAGE** shown by some of our more easily outraged commentators at GGW's **OUTRAGEOUS** anti-car bias.

Anyway, here's the WaPo's latest from Ashley Halsey "Few Common Themes In Spate of D.C. Area Pedestrian Deaths":

One was waiting for the light to change, two were crossing a six-lane highway, another was headed to a post office, one walked beside the interstate, another wandered into the path of a vehicle...In the Washington region in the past month, half a dozen people have died after walking into the paths of cars, sport-utility vehicles and a bus, bumping up the number of pedestrian deaths in an area that has averaged almost 93 pedestrian fatalities in each of the past five years.
Remember folks, pedestrians are never run over by drivers; they're not even "hit by cars". No, pedestrians always, always "wander into the path of a vehicle"...

Classic stuff.

by oboe on Oct 13, 2010 2:55 pm • linkreport

@rain4november:

Last week along 18th and H street near the World Bank. The light turned red for 18th street, green for H street -- cars started moving, and a cyclist plowed through the red light along 18th street heading south just in front of the cars. He had a hands-free cell phone bud and was also chatting on it.

I've seen it before as well. But given the number of cyclists in the region, I wouldn't exactly say that a once-a-week phenomenon is "lots"...

There are idiots out there. Fortunately they're still in the minority.

by oboe on Oct 13, 2010 3:07 pm • linkreport

@oboe

The point remains that cyclists should fall into the same category as cars -- both can hit pedestrians. Moreover, because of the smaller size of a bicycle, there may be greater temptation to (a) use sidewalks where other pedestrians are trying to walk - whereas a car can't, (b) go against traffic -- also something a car can't for too long without a cop noticing.

Also -- your earlier post said "Where is this? Because if you're talking about in DC, I call horse-shit." -- but clearly you've seen it too in your latest post. Glad you could make the concession that I had SOME value to my post :-)

I'm all for cyclists, but I'm also for them operating safely with respect also for those of us who walk.

by L. Fairfax on Oct 13, 2010 8:44 pm • linkreport

I see lots of pedestrians AND cyclists talking on the cell phones while crossing the street or bicycling

The assertion was that PP say "lots of cyclists talking on the cell phones while...bicycling." They then followed up by saying they saw a cyclist do this last week. My point was that, if it's remarkable enough to make an impression, it's not happening "all the time".

Every month or so, I see a guy with a cat on a leash--that doesn't mean I see "guys with cats on leashes all the time".

Folks with an anti-cyclist agenda tend to inflate the incidence of "cyclist scofflawry" already, (and completely ignore rampant lawbreaking by drivers but that's a whole new topic). I was just flagging this particular instance.

As far as wrong-way cyclists go, they're a greater danger to themselves than any pedestrian. What are the numbers of pedestrians killed or grieviously injured by cyclists in DC again? I'm sure it happens "all the time".

by oboe on Oct 14, 2010 9:06 am • linkreport

Check yourself oboe -- I'm not on an anti-cyclist agenda, but I am trying to point out cyclists aren't immune to the same threats to people's safety as cars if you're a pedestrian. Lots was over a people of 3+ years, I didn't give you a denominator to the sum of lots.

Remember, you said "Where is this? Because if you're talking about in DC, I call horse-shit. It's pretty rare to see this. To the point where it's pretty remarkable when you see it."

Maybe we're quibbling over the definition of rare, but if even you admit you see it once a week, I don't call that rare and I especially don't label someone has saying "horse-shit" when they bring it up as happening.

by L. Fairfax on Oct 14, 2010 1:04 pm • linkreport

Sorry, and with this I'll stop quibbling, but yes with the number of cyclists in this city, if the most that @rain4november (not I) could come up with is a sighting every week or so, that's rare.

by oboe on Oct 14, 2010 1:48 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.

or