How will pedestrians fare in an era of self-driving cars?
When growing up, most youngsters are taught the rather simple but altogether self-driving concept they ought to look both ways before crossing the road.
Why is there a requirement to show such a security precaution?
Because the streets are occupied by moving objects, including heavy ones which will knock the stuffing out of you. Cars coming down a street can ram into an individual and therefore the result’s downright ugly. It is likely that the pedestrian struck by a car goes to suffer some number of injuries, starting from mild scratches and a couple of broken bones to the sad and all too often loss-of-life entirely.
According to U.S. government statistics, the year 2019 had about 6,200 pedestrian fatalities, and approximately 76,000 pedestrians were injured, which is typically the annual counts that occur year after year (for my collection of driving stats, see the link here). Over the course of a decade, this translates into perhaps 62,000 deaths and 760,000 people injured, all thanks to the regrettable act of stepping into a collision with a vehicle of 1 kind or another (this includes cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, etc.).
Speaking of a decade, going back to 2009 it seems that there have been quite a lot fewer pedestrian fatalities at that point. Surprisingly, the count of ten years ago has increased by about 50% to today’s much larger number. The point is that the amount of pedestrian deaths has gone up, unnervingly so.
One explanation for this growth in pedestrian fatalities is that we aren’t listening to the roadways like we want to do so. The notion of looking both ways seems to possess worn off. Another claimed explanation is that self-drivers are driving while distracted, trying to observe cat videos or text on their smartphones. The distracted driver isn’t expecting pedestrians and thus more pedestrians are becoming killed.
Of course, the aspect of being distracted is additionally leveled at pedestrians. The use of smartphones has not only distracted drivers, but it also tends to preoccupy pedestrians too. Wandering around a city while listening intently to a podcast on your smartphone or looking to ascertain who just texted you’ve got become familiar and each day common.
Okay, so it might be that we have a one-two punch occurring. We have pedestrians being less cautious, which we’ve drivers being less alert. That’s bad for everyone. Some though like better to attempt to pin the tail on only one donkey by contending that only drivers are guilty, or perhaps that only pedestrians are guilty. The logic seems to be that they both can’t be guilty and just one should be wearing the badge of shame.
You could certainly wag the accusatory finger at the drivers.
A driver got to relish the privilege allowed of driving on our public roads. For that permissible act, they ought to put aside any distractions and focus exclusively on driving the vehicle that they’re liable for. Trying to pawn off the striking of a pedestrian as a driver is outrageous since the driving force should have in the least times been going at a speed sufficient to avoid a collision with a pedestrian.
Not so fast, say those that represent drivers.
If a pedestrian suddenly darts into the center of the road, there’s not much a driver can do. Their car cannot sprout wings and fly over the highest of the pedestrian (well, maybe someday we’ll finally have those vaunted and long-sought flying cars, but not yet). Even the foremost conscientious driver goes to urge caught unawares when a jaywalker steps between two parked vehicles and magically seems like a rabbit out of a hat. The blame for pedestrians getting snagged is on the top and shoulders of the pedestrians themselves.
Whoa, so which is it, the driving force or the pedestrian that carries the fault during this state of woe?
Trying to narrow the blame to just one of the parties seems a touch questionable and portrays the matter during a sort of false dichotomy. There are instances of irresponsible drivers and thus the pedestrian was doing their best to remain from getting clobbered. There are instances of pedestrians that were irresponsible and thus the driving force did their best to remain from clobbering the person. Lumping all of the circumstances into solely one bucket doesn’t appear to be a helpful thanks to solving the matter.
Notably, this is often a drag that’s obviously worth solving. How can we save pedestrians from the risks of getting smacked or killed by moving cars?
The easy answer is to make sure that pedestrians and cars are never within the same place at an equivalent time.
For example, some downtown areas are exploring (or have implemented) blocking their downtown streets to stop any vehicle traffic. In that case, pedestrians can roam freely and not worry about looking both ways. This is an exquisite potential solution but whether it’s scalable is an open question. Can we actually plan to eliminate vehicle traffic wherever pedestrians might be? Unlikely. The counterargument is that a minimum of we’ll do so within the hotspots that have most of the adverse car-and-pedestrian encounters.
Another viewpoint is to essentially reduce demonstratively the quantity of automobile traffic. Get people to prevent self-driving cars and instead take mass transit. Fewer cars mean fewer chances of a self-driving car-and-pedestrian mismatch.
Here’s another idea for you to mull over.
Suppose we could devise cars that might not be subject to self-driving distraction. The car would presumably not be as endangering a beast. In that case, maybe we could let cars and pedestrians intermingle since we are assuming that the cars would be more sensitive to pedestrian activity and hopefully tons less likely to ram into one.