Pedestrian Safety Concerns and New Doubts About Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous vehicle technology is no longer enjoying an uncritical reception. Skepticism, it seems, is becoming a more common response to the idea of setting robot cars free on the streets.

August 20, 2018, 10:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


According to an article by Jeremy Kahn, pedestrians behavior continues to challenge researchers and engineers working on automated vehicle technology. That "burning issue" could be impacting the viability of the technology.

The message communicated by some engineers: you're crossing the street wrong. Or, as Andrew Ng puts it in the article, "Please be lawful and please be considerate."

Since an Uber self-driving car struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona earlier this year, some safety advocates have questioned whether automated vehicles should be on the road if they can't guarantee the safety of pedestrians. Angie Schmitt's take, written shortly after Kahn's article, calls out the autonomous car industry for trying to shift blame on jaywalkers and trying to reprogram the public realm to suit the shortcomings of autonomous vehicles technology.

Kahn raises one additional interesting point, which is to say the article implies some doubt that autonomous vehicles are as viable as the technology's boosters would have the world believe. Kahn points to the struggles of Uber and Teslas as examples of the industry "losing steam." The New York Times also echoed that new doubt about the viability of self-driving technology, referencing Uber specifically in an article published yesterday

Kahn also adds questions about other companies racing to beat everyone to the autonomous vehicle market: "Google’s Waymo has promised to launch a self-driving taxi service, starting in Phoenix, Arizona, later this year, and General Motors Co. has pledged a rival service—using a car without steering wheel or pedals—some time in 2019. But it’s unclear if either will be capable of operating outside of designated areas or without a safety driver who can take over in an emergency." 

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