The Chainlink

...if pedestrians [and cyclists] know they’ll never be run over, [walking and biking in the middle of the street] could explode, grinding traffic to a solution suggested by the automotive industry, is [a bike ban, and fenced sidewalks and] gates at each corner, which would periodically open to allow pedestrians to cross....

An article in the NYTimes yesterday carried the thinking about our autonomous car future a couple of worrisome steps further.

Another negative: since they will be programmed to avoid speeding and parking tickets, local revenues will fall, forcing taxes up dramatically.

Such a future is less than 5 years away, according to experts. And once AVs begin to mix with manually-driven cars, our roads will become 'a mosh pit' for the next 30-40 years. Especially since V2V and V2X technology is being developed to allow AVs to 'talk' to other AVs and traffic infrastructure in order to anticipate and plan safe, speedy the expense of manually-driven cars.

Unfortunately neither federal nor local governments are doing much to prepare for coming private ownership of AVs. And the fear is that 'crash planning' at the last moment might result in restricting our roads and communities to become sterile 'Jetsons' environments that favor vehicles only....bikes, runners and pedestrians not allowed.

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"While news media attention has recently focused on the handful of deaths caused by autonomous vehicles, education is needed to convince people that the self-driving cars will be much safer than today’s cars and trucks, which kill more than 30,000 people every year in the United States," Mr. Rosekind said.

That's really what it's all about.  There are design considerations naturally, but keeping our eye on the prize - reduction in deaths and injuries - is key. 

Ideally speeding ticket revenue will go down because people won't be speeding, or, could actually travel even faster(!) but more safely.  Savings then comes from not having to hire speeding enforcement cops, buy their cruiser, radar equipment, adjudication costs, injury costs, car repair cost, etc.  Yes, there is commerce in all of those things, but those are net wealth loses not gains, and all of that capital and labor can be redeployed elsewhere in the macro economy, which is a good thing.

Structured properly, this will all be safer for pedestrians and cyclists.  Autonomous vehicles don't get road rage, sleepy, intoxicated, and so forth. 

"Structured properly, this will all be safer for pedestrians and cyclists."

Therein lies the rub: "Structured properly." i fear that we'll have a wild west show -even more than what we have now. Who do we trust to properly structure AV laws & usage?

The very idea that AV's will obey speed limits & complete stops will irritate a large percentage of conventional drivers, and lead to an increase in road rage incidents and reckless driving as those drivers swing around any car that dares slow them down.

And again, how will the insurance industry react? Who will be liable when an AV is involved in an injury or property damage incident? Had anyone even begun to consider the implications?

Well sure!  Or perhaps as important, doing work. I know folks who take the train merely because they can do work on the train - emails, analysis and such, even though it takes a few minutes longer for the total travel time. (The disadvantage for them is the loss of phone call privacy, and worse, people who talk without wanting it) 

Because being able to work on the train instead of drive reduces the down-time of commuting, it raises their net weekly productivity, which for some (not all) of these folks allows them to leave work earlier, and have more time with families or friends.  It will be interesting to see the new shape of cars, and what sells a car then versus what car consumers pursue now.  Most likely they'll be more "train-like" and will even sync up and caravan, except won't be confined to tracks and the train schedule - two major detractors for train riders.  The question is, which ones will have bike racks?!?

The ones with multicapacity passengers on thier way to Kettle Moraine or Palos as they load up on victuals and hydration I would conjecture.

First, the Beatles offer a way forward:  "If you drive a car, I'll tax the street".  I'm sure there are alternative ways to obtain tax revenues if parking tickets fall off a cliff. Civilization, and our budgets, will cope.

But to imagine regular usage of AVs is 5 years away is not possible. There will probably be "augmented" driving, where there are lots of things to help drivers make good choices. But the people promoting "5 years away" haven't thought it through. Driving in a snow storm? How to have your kids car seat in the back? The umbrella?  Like, the whole world is not Arizona.  Someone is keen to promote this, but it's not a certainty. 

Augmented driving? Yes. Autonomous?  No, not yet. 

The NY Times ran an article a few days later about how cyclists were blamed 100+ years ago for scaring horses because they didn't follow the rules.  And argues that we need to rethink our public space to be about people, not objects.

So I am hopeful, and think everyone talking about the imminent future of AVs is wrong.

The "shared" aspect of it is new, and cuts out the need to own one (which in turn will spike use), but most states (Illinois included) have always allowed people to ride a moped that goes under 30 with a standard license without having to take any sort of motorcycle licensing class. 



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