Protect bicyclists and pedestrians by prohibiting blind self-driving vehicles from the streets

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Now that bicyclists and pedestrians in Tempe, Arizona, have learned they’re part of a failed lab experiment, perhaps it is time to restrict testing of self-driving cars on city streets.

The on-board video released by the Tempe Police Department shows the last moments before 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg was struck and killed by an Uber test car while pushing her bicycle across a street in the Phoenix suburb on Sunday night.

The video also shows the “backup” driver shortly before the crash.

This is not supposed to happen with the so-called autonomous cars. The vehicles are supposed to be ever-vigilant and safer than human operators because they don’t drive drunk, sleepy, or distracted.

Apparently that isn’t the case, however, as Uber is removing the test cars from the streets in Phoenix, as well as Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto, before someone else gets killed.

A lot has been said about how it appears the pedestrian emerges from the darkness into the car’s headlights an instant before she is struck.

In fact, one of the vehicle’s safety features is its ability to see beyond what a motorist can see. The vehicle is equipped with radar and lidar that can scan beyond a human’s visual range, even in the dark. As Bloomberg explains:

“Driverless cars “see” the world around them using data from cameras as well as radar and lidar sensors that bounce laser light off objects to assess shape and location. High-speed processors crunch the data to provide a 360-degree view of lanes, traffic, pedestrians, signs, stoplights and anything else in the vehicle’s path. That’s supposed to enable the vehicle to know, in real time, where to go and when to stop. But pedestrian identification remains a major challenge for self-driving systems. “

In this case, the processor apparently didn’t know it was about to collide with a pedestrian. It’s criminal that companies are live-testing these vehicles on the road without knowing what they will do. It’s a hell of a way to find out.

The League of American Bicyclists wants these self-driving cars to pass “vision tests” before they’re allowed on city streets.  The LAB reports:

“Regardless of the details of this crash, recent articles in IEEE Spectrum and in Slate magazine report that detecting bicyclists is one most difficult problems Automated Driving Systems (ADS) technology faces, and testing for bicyclists lags behind other ADS technology tests.”

A bill introduced in the US Senate — SB 1885 — creates some oversight on use of self-driving vehicles. The League wants that bill to require a “vision test” for these vehicles to prove they have “the ability to recognize and respond to people biking and walking in our streets.”

You can contact your US Senators from this League of American Bicyclists website to ask that bicyclists and pedestrians be protected in the bill.

See also:
This is the moment when we decide that human lives matter more than cars: Uber’s fatal Arizona crash is a call to action for cities 

Meanwhile, California is about to allow driverless cars on state roads:

California green-lights cars without drivers

And European bicycling advocate suggests fitting all bikes with warning beacons: All cyclists will need to fit detection beacons, says cycle industry boss

Coalition calls for increased federal regulations of autonomous vehicles (AVs)

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    • Rich on March 22, 2018 at 4:10 pm
    • Reply

    Perhaps it’s time to restrict testing of human driven cars on city streets. That kills tens of thousands every year.

    • Jeff Dunning on March 23, 2018 at 12:00 pm
    • Reply

    Testing should not be done on public roads. However, I think I will have better peace of mind with a computer controlling a car than a human. Computers will never be in 100% of motorized vehicles on the road.

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