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Self-Driving Cars and the Hostile Takeover of Our Streets

Last Sunday, Elaine Herzberg, a homeless woman in Arizona, became the first person to be killed by an autonomous vehicle. The sobering event was something of a watershed moment for a decade of fanfare surrounding the development of self-driving cars. Ride services and automakers should face increasing questions not only about the safety of AVs—the public must also reexamine the historically unprecedented priority now given to private automobiles in metropolitan areas.

The Uber-owned Volvo SUV that killed Herzberg in Tempe that evening held a person behind the wheel capable of taking control, and hit her near the intersection of two wide surface roads curving through a typical suburban landscape: to the east, an expanse of open space with trails and other recreational uses and to the west office parks stretching to the city line. It was a place one would expect to find deserted on a Sunday night, and not even the kind of environment that normally attracts homeless people. Nevertheless, Elaine Herzberg was there and “she came from the shadows right into the roadway,” as Temple Police Chief Sylvia Moir told reporters at a press conference [1] following the incident.

We might ask Silicon Valley engineers what the point is of a self-driving car that’s supposed to be better than a human if it can’t “see” past the visual spectrum. (Some cars sold today, like the Audi A6 and the BMW 7 Series, have night vision systems, which are also available as aftermarket modifications). We might call for more regulation and oversight of the AV testing process, as CityLab, NPR, and others did.

We might do all that and more, but never focus on the real issue: Herzberg’s death, and the police assigning blame to her instead of the operator of the large vehicle moving 38 miles per hour, slightly exceeding the posted speed limit. Then there are any of the basic failures of AVs [2] that wouldn’t allow them to pass a driving test—their inability to always stop at red lights, easily merge into traffic, navigate bridges or snow, get around without proper road markings, understand temporary cones and construction, avoid potholes, or deal with other unanticipated safety issues.

In truth, Herzberg’s death was little different from the other 30,000 or so deaths of pedestrians, cyclists, and other motorists that will occur this year as a result of automobiles. A few years ago, Boston (which brands itself as “America’s walking city”) Mayor Marty Walsh, when asked about traffic fatalities in the city, remarked, “You have to understand, cars are going to hit you.” [3] This attitude is also the attitude of many American mayors, despite the popularity of adopting Vision Zero programs aimed at reducing road deaths.

The conservative luminary Russell Kirk called cars “mechanical Jacobins.” [4] While Kirk’s all-too-brief 1962 essay concerned the automobile’s effect on culture, the car has been at its most revolutionary in overturning common law, in exiling people to narrow or non-existent sidewalks and, in truly totalitarian fashion, running over all who resist. The Canadian Tory George Grant went so far as to assert that [5] the “directors of General Motors and the followers of Professor Marcuse sail down the same river in different boats.” I don’t entirely agree with this idea, but in the case of the automobile it is literally true.

As Hunter Oatman-Stanford argues [6], mass automobile ownership ushered in a revolution in law. Streets were once understood to be public spaces all had equal right to use and in the case of a crash the common law (following common sense) would assign liability to the operator of the heavier and faster vehicle. Since streets were public property, in cities children often played in them—so by 1930 more than 200,000 people had been killed by cars and most of the victims were children.

But the automakers looked at the rapidly expanding cemeteries and thought only of the how the negative publicity would affect sales. Taking swift action, they spent heavily on public relations and formed task forces and committees ostensibly designed to promote safety and responsible regulations. In fact they exiled people from the streets and overturned common law decisions: Now it would be up to the pedestrian or cyclist to avoid getting hit; pedestrians could be fined for walking against the lights or crossing the street outside of the crosswalk. When a car mounted the curb and crashed into a building—the building didn’t get out of the way in time, apparently—it would be written off as an unavoidable “accident.”

Today, the revolution of Kirk’s mechanical Jacobins continues unabated. Drivers still routinely murder children with virtual impunity. Across the country it has become all too common for drivers who kill people not to face any consequences, much less be charged with vehicular manslaughter. In Minnesota, for example, the Star-Tribune found [7] that between 2010 and 2014, drivers crashed into pedestrians over 3,000 times, killing 95 people—but only 28 drivers were charged. In many cases involving a death, the driver wasn’t issued so much as a traffic ticket. In Atlanta, according to Aeon [8], a woman walking her three children home was charged with vehicular manslaughter and faced three years in prison for the death of her four-year-old son. The driver who hit them—a man blind in one eye, on painkillers, and with alcohol in his system—spent six months in jail for hit-and-run.

The technical issues involved in Herzberg’s death may or may not be solved by AV engineers—and even if they are, it won’t matter. The fundamental safety flaw in the automobile has never been human error, but the shared attitude of traffic engineers, automakers, politicians, and drivers: this is a culture that prioritizes the speed, convenience, and storage of automobiles over human lives, human flourishing, and human justice.

Matthew M. Robare is a freelance journalist based in Boston.

Follow @MattRobare [9] Follow @NewUrbs [10]

46 Comments (Open | Close)

46 Comments To "Self-Driving Cars and the Hostile Takeover of Our Streets"

#1 Comment By Realist (the first one) On March 23, 2018 @ 1:09 am

In ancient Israel, they worshipped the golden calf as a way of rejecting God, and seeking happiness by their own hubristic rules. Today, we have other idols: fast cars and luxurious houses, which we worship as symbols of success and the fulfillment of the “American dream”. Yet, these material things only turn our hearts to stone. This delusional definition of happiness is a lie, and it is leading us deeper and deeper into darkness. It is also no coincidence that it is producing a growing hatred of the Christian religion, which teaches that God is self-donating, self-sacrificing love, and calls us to imitate and follow Christ as the way, the truth, and the life — this is the only way to true fulfillment and happiness.

#2 Comment By grin without a cat On March 23, 2018 @ 1:27 am

The biggest difficulty with self-driving cars are all those human drivers. If we were to switch overnight so that the only cars on the road were robots, the complexity in programming them would diminish.

#3 Comment By Realist On March 23, 2018 @ 2:10 am

The driverless car is one of the dumbest of a lot of dumb ideas. What is the point???? They can be hacked as a weapon for Christ sake.

#4 Comment By Fran Macadam On March 23, 2018 @ 2:36 am

It’s not just a fact but an allegory of our times: the upwardly mobile coast technocrats steamrolling the downwardly mobile, literally.

#5 Comment By toughluck On March 23, 2018 @ 3:19 am

“this is a culture that prioritizes the speed, convenience, and storage of **automobiles** over human lives, human flourishing, and human justice.”
I thought automobiles existed to carry humans inside them. I guess I was wrong.
I suppose you’d like to allow everyone to enjoy being able to walk everywhere and take up entire streets and place a speed limit of 5 mph everywhere. Emergency services, too?
You mention narrow or nonexistent sidewalks. Before automobiles, there was no concept of a “street” whatsoever. There were walks between houses, with all kinds of nooks and crannies, and only a few passageways allowed you to move on horseback or haul a cart. Oh, and traffic accidents happened back then, too, with people being run over by horses or carts daily.

#6 Comment By I Don’t Matter On March 23, 2018 @ 5:21 am

The way she walked right in front of the car – no technology or human intervention could save her. She was well within the stopping distance of the car at that speed.
Unless the author recommends abolition of car travel, having self-driving cars is the best hope to drastically reduce traffic accidents, early bugs and issues being expected as with any technology.

#7 Comment By furbo On March 23, 2018 @ 6:28 am

I fail to understand the hoopla of self driving cars. To me they seem an answer to a question no one has asked. I don’t want one, don’t want to ride in one and don’t know anybody who does. Having been a truck driver as a young man in the DFW Metroplex with hundreds of small, almost invisible vehicles all around me was like walking thru a large litter of puppies – it took a lot of attention and effort not to squash one – and the thought of driverless trucks terrifies me. Just say NO.

#8 Comment By Kent On March 23, 2018 @ 9:36 am

“The technical issues involved in Herzberg’s death may or may not be solved by AV engineers”

They won’t be. Computers aren’t magic. They are machines programmed by humans. And humans have capabilities that can’t be programmed into machines. We have the ability to instantly focus all of our attention on anomalies and react. That’s a result of a few hundred million years of evolution in an eat or be eaten world. We are also deeply social beings and can anticipate the actions of other humans. These things allow us to minimize traffic fatalities, even though there are still far too many.

Google AVs have a higher accident rate per mile driven than your average human driver. They originally blamed it on “bad” human drivers. But they determined that other human drivers don’t get into these accidents, because we can recognize and take action when in the presence of poor drivers. Computers cannot be programmed to help a 90 year old woman trying to merge into high-speed traffic at 30 mph.

So we are going to continue to have to give up more of our liberty in order to allow AVs on the road. We are going to have to give up some of our driving privileges. We are going to have to realize the we must compromise our own safety so that our fellow Americans can be driven by their AVs while they text and eat breakfast.

That’s progress.

#9 Comment By Richard On March 23, 2018 @ 10:43 am

I don’t get it. Driverless cars take the fun out of driving. And if you’re too tired to drive in the first place, you’re likely also too tired to oversee the operation of the vehicle.

#10 Comment By Anna On March 23, 2018 @ 10:53 am

“I thought automobiles existed to carry humans inside them. I guess I was wrong.”

Sure, they do, but why is it that we prioritize humans in automobiles over humans not in automobiles? That amounts to prioritizing those passing through a space over those actually trying to live, work, play, engage in trade, etc., in that space. Optimizing for cars to pass through always means making the space less pleasant for the humans actually using it, and often makes it outright unsafe. Which then forces everyone into cars, whether they like it or not. (And if you can’t afford that, you become essentially unemployable.)

It’s well known by the number-crunching types that speeding traffic through an urban area doesn’t actually shorten the average commute – in the aggregate, people will simply opt to travel further with that extra time. I suppose it makes the economy more flexible to some degree, but at the level of individual quality of life, how is that improving anything for anybody? If we didn’t build our cities to optimize zooming through at 40 mph, we’d all have to work and shop close to where we lived (as the rest of the world outside America does), and just possibly – who knows? – actually have some sense of local community.

#11 Comment By Brian Villanueva On March 23, 2018 @ 12:01 pm

” early bugs and issues being expected as with any technology.”

Elaine Herzberg was just a “bug”?

What does it mean if we find a corporation (not a person) to be guilty of murder? If the NTSB allows this to go with a regulatory fine and no criminal charges, AV companies will simply have a line-item in their budgets for the number of people they expect to kill every year.

Elaine Herzberg can not be written off as a cost-of-doing business.

#12 Comment By Argon On March 23, 2018 @ 12:07 pm

Fran: “It’s not just a fact but an allegory of our times: the upwardly mobile coast technocrats steamrolling the downwardly mobile, literally.”

Not citing ‘the deep state’ as the cause? I’m disappointed.

#13 Comment By Dennis On March 23, 2018 @ 1:08 pm

Has the author of this piece actually bothered to watch the dashcam video? Sorry, but her own negligence is the reason she is dead.

When I first heard the story and headlines I assumed the car had veered off the road in some crazy, out-of-control manner and driven into a woman on a sidewalk or bike lane who was minding her own business and acting in a perfectly normal manner within the rules of the road. That is clearly not the case.

I’m no fan of self-driven cars in general, and am not convinced they are the way to go in the future, but this was clearly the woman’s fault. She was crossing a dark road at night, at a place not designated for traffic crossing, wearing dark clothes, and in place in the road where a car coming-up and noticing her would have little time to react and swerve safely out of the way or stop before hitting her.

This one accident, in the particular circumstances in which it occurred is far to small a sample-size to condemn AI and self-driving cars tout court. Pedestrians and bikers bear some responsibility for obeying traffic rules and being careful themselves.

#14 Comment By Begemot On March 23, 2018 @ 2:39 pm

Dennis: The video you refer to is very misleading. I’m personally familiar with the area in which this accident occurred. The video suggests a much darkened road. In fact this is a wide, multi-lane, relatively straight (not highly curved), highly illuminated area. Any driver paying attention would have seen the victim crossing the road, even at night, and particularly late, when there is much reduced traffic. The automated controls of this vehicle failed in a catastrophic manner. This is where the fault lies.

#15 Comment By Charlie On March 23, 2018 @ 2:41 pm

Dose anybody know what the AI is programmed to do in this situation, imminent head-on collision, passengers secure in their Volvo? Is it possible a non-AV might instantly recognize a pedestrian moving to the right and jerk the wheel to the left? Will the AI someday be able to differentiate between a middle aged homeless woman with a bicycle and a young mother with a stroller? Would that make a difference to a non-AV?

You hear all sorts of stuff on the internet but someone who claims to know this street where Herzberg was killed says it’s not nearly as dark as it appears in the dashcam video.

#16 Comment By ChrisNJ On March 23, 2018 @ 3:19 pm

The fundamental flaw of auto safety has ALWAYS been human drivers.

#17 Comment By I Don’t Matter On March 23, 2018 @ 4:51 pm

“Elaine Herzberg was just a “bug”?”

No. She was a human being who made a tragic mistake, one that far too many people make: she did not pay attention to traffic, and stepped right in front of a moving vehicle. A ton of steel moving at 38 mph cannot stop instantly. It doesn’t matter whether a machine or a human controls it. This is such a basic fact of life that it is astonishing that all people talk about is the fact that the car was self-driving.
Look. Maybe it would be better if there weren’t cars in cities. Maybe it would be better if we still were run over by horses instead. But cars are. Pretending that they don’t exist, or can magically avoid colliding with a suddenly appealing pedestrian, gets one killed.

#18 Comment By Laurence Mardon On March 23, 2018 @ 6:06 pm

Thank you for quoting George Grant! His ‘Lament for a Nation’ is a must-read classic!

#19 Comment By Cesar Jeopardy On March 23, 2018 @ 8:54 pm

A video from the the vehicle showing the “accident” is here:

[11]

There are no obstacles blocking a driver’s view of the road or roadside. Nor are there any reasons sensors should not have sensed a pedestrian pushing a bicycle from the left across the road. The system, as well as the safety driver, failed.

#20 Comment By blimbax On March 23, 2018 @ 8:59 pm

“The driverless car is one of the dumbest of a lot of dumb ideas. What is the point????”

Driverless cars are basically mobile robots. They put humans out of work.

And to those who put the blame on the pedestrian, I think that a driver of a vehicle has a duty to avoid hitting a pedestrian even if the pedestrian is acting negligently. The owners of driverless cars should be held to a strict liability standard. Better yet, the concept should be abandoned altogether.

#21 Comment By Mike On March 23, 2018 @ 11:53 pm

The author appears not to recognize that the vehicle drivers fund the roads through their fuel taxes.

#22 Comment By Lex Lindsey On March 24, 2018 @ 12:30 am

Surely if this tragic incident had involved a streetcar or grade-level light rail, everyone would immediately recognize that these much-touted transportation systems present a clear danger to pedestrians who don’t pay sufficient attention. Why the different standard for autonomous vehicles, which are surely much safer, even if not perfect?

#23 Comment By Shawn On March 24, 2018 @ 8:14 am

People who are afraid of technology make me laugh. I’m willing to wager, if I were able to go back in time, it was your direct ancestors who were afraid of the horseless carriages, and aero planes. Unfortunately there were many deaths associated with these new technologies also. If these technology alarmists had there way, we would still be traveling by horses, and wind powered boats.

I would recommend to all these “ back in my day” alarmists, lock your doors, turn off those Edison lights, and hide from the drone army that will be delivering packages to your neighbors house, before one lands on your grass, and upsets you.

BTW, I wrote this from my cell phone, which my own grandfather would disapprove of. He would never own something so scary.

#24 Comment By Michael Powe On March 24, 2018 @ 11:00 am

Good article.

Every advance of technology has resulted in the deaths of innocents. How many ordinary folks were killed by exploding steam engines in the early industrial era? Thousands, probably tens of thousands. Early engines had no reliable mechanisms for detecting a dangerous buildup of boiler pressure, with sometimes disastrously spectacular results, leveling whole buildings. And, as the author points out, the automobile was an agent of death from its first appearance on the roadways.

The author is correct that the issue is not the ‘A’ in AV, but the ‘V.’ I commute to work 1 hour each way, Mon-Fri. I can, and sometimes do, work from home, but my employer demands my face appear on the shop floor, except in exigent circumstances. Millions of other workers face similar, or worse, commutes.

I commute in a car, because there’s no public transport on which to make this journey. I detest driving, and only listening to audio books makes this trip bearable. I’m in this position, as are so many other workers, because the commercial infrastructure was built around automobiles. Almost nobody in America thinks driving 47 miles to work every day, and then 47 miles home again, is unusual, or outrageous. They ought to. 100 years ago, we lived where we worked. The automobile changed that, for the worse.

#25 Comment By Brad On March 25, 2018 @ 10:49 am

I’ve been driving a big truck (Class A vehicle) for over quarter century. No accidents, EVER! And why do I not have accidents, because I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, “Paying attention to my driving and your driving”!!! And partly luck.

This article in one sentence sums it up.—>

“The Uber-owned Volvo SUV that killed Herzberg in Tempe that evening held a person behind the wheel capable of taking control.”

That person, (behind the wheel) and other persons who drive automobiles don’t pay attention when they aren’t in a self-driving car. What makes you think he, or she, would be paying attention to driving when a computer is driving that vehicle??? Answer: They aren’t and they won’t!

Most people in automobiles on our nations highways, and city streets, are doing everything, and anything, but what they should be doing, which is to pay attention to their speed, their following distance, and not text, talk, eat, day-dream, etc… while driving that 4-12 thousand pound vehicle!

These people ( I see it every single day by most) are texting, eating, day-dreaming, reading, putting on makeup, etc… They are rude, and dangerous. They’re (god only knows why) in a hurry to get where they are going, and they want to be there thirty seconds faster than anyone else, and are willing to kill you or themselves to achieve that goal!

Its pathetic at best!

#26 Comment By Fred Schumacher On March 25, 2018 @ 10:51 am

Re: “The way she walked right in front of the car – no technology or human intervention could save her.” Not at all. The Uber accident was a clear case of systems failure on multiple levels, robotic and human.

Two nights ago, I avoided hitting two deer which bolted across the rural, unlit road from left to right while at the same time being partially blinded by the lights of an oncoming car less than 100 yards away. I was going 60 mph, faster than the Uber, and braked hard to let the first deer go by, just missing it by inches, and then came off the brake to thread the 10 foot gap between the two deer. If I had hit the trailing deer, it would have been thrown straight into the windshield of the oncoming car. This whole event lasted less than two seconds.

Don’t go by the luminosity of the dash cam video. These are small sensor cameras with poor low-light performance. Our eyes are much more sensitive. I caught the motion of the deer in the ditch and took immediate action. My ability to avoid hitting the deer is thanks to heuristics, which humans are excellent at and computers are not. The victim had crossed 3 1/2 lanes of the road and was hit by the right side of the Uber. A small steering correction was all that was needed to avoid hitting her.

The Uber’s LIDAR and radar should have had absolutely no problem seeing the victim and her bicycle and the operating algorithms should have had no problem recognizing a transverse movement across the path of the UBER. The robotic system failed. In addition, the human backup was not paying attention, which is a common case with human operators observing an autonomously guided machine. The reaction time of an observer is much slower than that of an actual operator.

Human drivers are actually quite safe. Death rate from automobiles is 1.18 per 100 million miles of travel. Uber has had about 3 million miles of autonomous experience, which makes its death rate thirty times higher than human drivers. Granted that’s a small data point, but it’s not encouraging. The belief that robotic cars will be safer than human drivers is exactly that, “belief” without data to back it up. It’s faith in technology. America’s premier journal of science recently predicted that Level 5 fully autonomous vehicles will arrive “somewhere over the rainbow.” [12]

#27 Comment By Justin On March 25, 2018 @ 11:16 am

Agreed for the most part, but, as a friend of someone involved in such an incident, I’m not too keen on focusing on the lack of punishment for people who are involved in pedestrian deaths. If the point is to talk about the broader philosophy of cars shaping our society and built environments, great. But, in cases like my friend’s, driving the speed limit at night and having a woman walk into the street just in front of one’s car, in a poorly lit area, away from any intersection, should not bring condemnation on the driver. The system, sure. But, within this system, that could have happened to any of us.

#28 Comment By Sandra On March 25, 2018 @ 11:29 am

Around Christmastime there was a disastrous train accident between Portland and Seattle with catastrophic morbidity because the train was going too fast. It was speculated that the engineer was at fault and that better technology for trains, similar to the auto-pilot on planes, could have prevented the accident. We know planes are safer because of the automated controls. There is no moving back with self-driving cars and much to be gained. They need to investigate the accident and find ways to prevent similar accidents in the future but as with most other modes of transportation technology and automation will improve safety.

#29 Comment By polistra On March 25, 2018 @ 12:34 pm

It doesn’t matter if an active driver might have failed in the same way. The tech monsters tell us constantly that the autonomous version of everything is BETTER than humans, not EQUAL to humans.

Clearly the robots are not BETTER. They may be EQUAL in this particular case, but then why should we spend billions and readjust our legal and insurance systems to accommodate objects with EQUAL ability?

And then the real reason emerges. Because the tech monsters are genocidal maniacs. They want to eliminate all life (except for themselves, of course.)

#30 Comment By Because They Don’t Give A On March 25, 2018 @ 1:11 pm

Uber self-driving car kills a pedestrian, and Uber blames the pedestrian.

#31 Comment By Manning Up On March 25, 2018 @ 1:16 pm

Reckless punks at Uber killed someone with their sloppily engineered self-driving car. Sue them, take all their money, put them out of business, and throw the executives and reckless engineers in prison. This is exactly the kind of situation that wet we have lawyers and prosecutors for.

#32 Comment By Andrew B. Brown On March 25, 2018 @ 1:28 pm

Cities need smart traffic signals. This is a business plan looking for capital and people:

[13]

#’s are in Thai baht. Plan was designed for the US.

#33 Comment By Westcoastdeplorable On March 25, 2018 @ 2:35 pm

When did we get to vote whether or not we WANT driveless cars and trucks? I must have missed that election!

#34 Comment By mojrim On March 25, 2018 @ 4:22 pm

What many here seem to miss is that this isn’t about the technology, or liability, or human reaction times, it’s about how we construct our public spaces. A space friendly to motor vehicles, whoever drives them, is by definition unfriendly to pedestrians. The value of public transportation, be it busses, streetcars, or subways, is that it takes up far less space than private automobiles. This leaves more human-friendly space for us to walk, play, drink coffee, whatever. That we pay for this automobilization via taxes (BTW, fuel taxes only cover about 60%) is irrelevant. Information isn’t perfect, humans are generally stupid and easily manipulated, and we have no idea where these things are going lead when it starts.

The question in this debate, as with all others, is cui bono. In the case of private automobiles, the answer is auto and petroleum executives. Who pays? Everyone else.

#35 Comment By Garry Kelly On March 25, 2018 @ 6:26 pm

People who are afraid of technology make me laugh.

I, for one, am afraid of Atomic Bombs.

#36 Comment By Eric On March 25, 2018 @ 9:05 pm

@Westcoastdeplorable “When did we get to vote whether or not we WANT driveless cars and trucks? I must have missed that election!”

The vote is with our wallets. It’s similar to the reality that we no longer have to hire people to bag our corn because we have robots that do it better. GPS systems guide our tractors. Drones analyze our fields for disease. Automatically adjusting, very efficient detasselers means we no longer have to hire migrant workers. Touch screens enable us to move corn from one bin to another without having to do the physical labor. These technologies enable us to hire the same amount of labor for our hybrid seed corn production with 2000 acres as we hired in the 90s for 300 acres. The world is changing and articles like this that reject the free market approach to business aren’t going to change that fact.

#37 Comment By Brian Miller On March 25, 2018 @ 11:42 pm

I just want to say that I am in no way a “conservative”-especially in an era where too many define Trump as the face of said position. But this urbs webpage, as well as Daniel Larison’s always thoughtful foreign policy jeremiads, prove that we (the United States, the world) need, thoughtful, humanistic, even traditionally religious perspective on issues of the world.

Kudos and thanks for a fascinating take on the issue. And other issues covered in Urbs. Good urbanism and planning are not “liberal” or “conservative” things!

On CityLab, there are too many “autosexuals” who are aghast at anyone who questions their right to drive very fast…even in cities.

#38 Comment By Brian Miller On March 25, 2018 @ 11:47 pm

I don’t agree that the tech lords want “universal death”. That would not be all that profitable. What they want is Wall-E. Fat, soft, lazy, easily entertained consuming units riding around in autonomous vehicles buying things and seeking desperately for entertainment.

#39 Comment By I Don’t Matter On March 26, 2018 @ 7:50 am

“Two nights ago, I avoided hitting two deer which bolted across the rural, unlit road from left to right while at the same time being partially blinded by the lights of an oncoming car less than 100 yards away.”

Congratulations (0 sarcasm). You must be in the top 1% of drivers by skill (is the last name real? Any relation to the famous Formula driver?). And a bit lucky, too, but we’ll let this slide.
I would have either struck a deer, careened into a ditch, or struck an oncoming vehicle. Or all three. Because I am just your average amateur schmuck of a driver, forced into doing this by geography and our lack of public transport. I suck at it, just like most Americans do. I can’t wait for the car to drive itself – once this technology matures, it will do it 10000 times better than I ever can.

#40 Comment By upsweep On March 26, 2018 @ 9:59 am

I agree with “Manning Up” that confiscatory fines and prison sentences are a big part of the solution here. You want to make a self-driving car? Fine. But better make damn sure it works before you put it on the road.

#41 Comment By G. L On March 26, 2018 @ 10:26 am

This meme that evil car corporations lobbied the government to create jay walking laws is besides the point. Cars were going to become popular in america with or without jay walking laws. To think that no changes in the design of cities would have eliminated the influence of the automobile is absurd. Walkability is a good aim for city and the car culture has indeed contributed to todays atomization. But, jay walking laws make sense when you have a large amount of cars. Having no controls on pedestrian control when you have a huge number of automobiles is a recipe for more deaths. Looking past Russel Kirk’s reactionary musings there needs to be a common sense visions of how inevitable demand for cars mix can with a livable city and walkable city.In the case of this homeless women, it is a good idea not to run across highways at night.

#42 Comment By SoCal1976 On March 26, 2018 @ 1:01 pm

In 10-20 years cars without drivers will be as controversial as elevators without operators.

#43 Comment By sglover On March 26, 2018 @ 1:36 pm

The right-wing governor of Arizona very publicly invited Uber to use his state and its citizens as engineering development test subjects. He explicitly contrasted his damn-the-torpedoes anti-regulatory attitude with that of California, which said no to Uber. California — which of course is noted for its Luddism — seemed to think that promises and good intentions from a company renowned for “move fast and break things” might not be quite good enough.

If you want informed discussion of what happened in this episode, you’re much better off looking at Ars Technica than TAC. Uber is yet again frantically trying to manufacture distractions to escape consequences for its own shoddy and incompetent “management” and “engineering”. Diversions might be the *only* thing the company’s any good at producing.

#44 Comment By Ryan W On March 27, 2018 @ 1:14 pm

I think this article gets it exactly right. Jumping on AV’s because of one fatal accident is silly when human drivers kill thousands of pedestrians every year. Obviously, with AVs, the process should keep on keeping on. The vehicles should continue to be developed and refined until the reach a safety standard greater than that of good human drivers. But what’s even more critical is looking at measures to increase pedestrian safety in general, whatever kind of vehicle they might encounter. As the article notes, building better sidewalks is an important step. Some other positive thing to do would be to greatly increase the number of crosswalks (equipping crosswalks with cameras to catch and fine drivers that run them would help as well), and to crack down hard on drivers who hit pedestrians. It’s extremely rare that a passenger is struck through no fault of the driver. This means that the driver should face serious consequences for hitting a pedestrian, but, as the article notes, this often doesn’t happen.

#45 Comment By Ryan W On March 27, 2018 @ 1:29 pm

As an aside, I for one and really looking forward to AV’s reaching full operational capacity. I understand that’s not a sure thing, but I’m optimistic, given the progress that’s been made so far, that they’ll get there eventually. If and when that happens, there will be a huge number of advantages. Operational AV’s will finally result in a situation where paying per ride will be cheaper than owning a vehicle, even for people who take multiple rides every day. As fewer and fewer people own cars, it will be possible to take more and more space from parking lots (since AV’s won’t park while they’re operational, and can be parked on the outskirts of the city when they’re not). Taking space back from parking lots will do a lot to help us move from cities built for parking lots to cities built for people. I think AV’s have the potential to play an auxiliary role (not the main role, but a useful and helpful one) in addressing some of the problems the author identifies.

#46 Comment By Fred Schumacher On April 3, 2018 @ 8:43 pm

Re: I Don’t Matter says: “Congratulations (0 sarcasm). You must be in the top 1% of drivers by skill”

No sarcasm needed, and no I’m not in 1% of drivers. I’m 68 years old, and I have a lot of experience driving, and I know what to watch for. I don’t fiddle with car entertainment systems; I drive in silence; and I pay attention all the time. Today, I passed a dozen deer on the side of the road in the space of six miles. Every one of them could dart into the road, so I watch closely and am ready to take action. I’m sorry you “suck” at driving, but most drivers don’t. Our death rate would be much higher than 1.18 deaths per 100 million miles if Americans were terrible drivers. My main point was that human excellence at heuristics gives us a big leg up over computer driven robots which need detailed instructions for every eventuality.