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Monday, 30 May 2016
Self driving cars: a menace to cyclists and road users everywhere!

Google self driving cars to be equipped with “people catching” hoods?

Yeh, self-driving cars no boon for safety


According to a tiny article in Investor’s Business Daily, Google just patented a sticky hood for their self driving cars.  The purpose is that when the car hits a person, they will stick to the hood and not be thrown, hopefully minimizing any injury beyond the initial impact.


What no one seems to have picked up on here is that this is a tacit admission that, not only will self-driving cars probably not be the perfect vehicles their promoters say, but those promoters themselves actually know they will be much more dangerous than regular, person-operated automobiles to pedestrians or even bicyclists.

We already knew this - outside of AI (artificial intelligence) there is no way for a computer to do what a alert road user does.  Self driving cars don't really drive in the sense of a thinking road user -- they cheat, reacting to sensors and a set of commands.  If it ain't on the commands, forget it.  This is why Google's cars were flummoxed by a trackstand in one famous example of their inability to deal with cyclists in real world situations -- and why their claim, recently, of being able to interact with a cyclist alongside (with no other traffic or variables around or between them, hardly a realistic assessment) doesn't convince me. 

Heck, if you want to talk safety, recallt he google car famously pulled over for driving too slow? Google said it capped their car's speeds at 25 mph.  Good, makes sense.  But then they let them drive of roads with much higher posted speeds, where the cars might actually cause an accident!  Why not truck them out to residential neighborhoods?  It costs more but it would at least show a concern for others and the rules while using the public as your personal lab rats [something they probably shouldn't be doing anyway]. 

Now you have this "sticky hood" thing.  The very fact that the company has patented what is essentially a cow-catcher for people implies they expect their cars to be colliding with them.  You do not go to the trouble to design, research, develop, and patent a device to make human beings stick to the hood of a car, unless you foresee that car actually hitting said human beings.

Consider that, then consider this: In all the major news articles I've read ove rthe last few years, from the NY Times to the New Jersey Star-Ledger, on self-driving cars, no one mentioned how they would interact with cyclists as part fo traffic.  In fact, cyclists were not mentioned AT ALL, not even in one article that specifically about a test area constructed to see how the cars reacted to things around them!!!

Bjut just now, after google and others have been working ont his for years, they are now saying "oh, we can react safety to cyclists".  Is there any way this could be more obvious that these companies (and the gov't) are treating cyclists as an afterthought and not a legitimate part of the traffic dynamic?

There may --- may -- be some minor merits to driverless cars versus a drunk or texter, but they cannot think, cannot make moral judgements, and are no substitute for an alert human.  With this new reveal, it is clear that it is not just critics of the self-driving cars like myself that conclude this, but even the companies promoting the cars themselves.  A cow-catcher for human beings hood is something you design only if you see your car colliding with human beings.  This says volumes about the implications of self-driving cars for cyclists and other road users not enclosed in cars.  But the self-driving boosters still swear their vehicles are safe.   

Sure.  Whatever you say.  
So why the “human target” hood?

I didn't even touch on the privacy issues.  Let's just say if Windows 10 is like Skynet for your PC or laptop, then self-driving cars, with their necessity to track your movements and location, and  the multitude of cameras they will have pointed at streets all over the U.S., are like Skynet for the roads.



Posted by blog/bicyclerider at 8:19 PM EDT
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