Autonomous vehicles are classified by six levels, from zero to five. Fully autonomous, Level 5, vehicles will not be available for 10 years or longer, and only after they’ve been tested for billions, not the current millions, of miles. Imagine Manhattan without jaywalking . Or Los Angeles freeways without speeding or Moscow without grinding traffic. If self-driving cars are going to move forward, these are among the many possibilities that the people dreaming up the future of cities will have to consider.
In New York, the unwritten rule is plain: Cross the street whenever and wherever, just don’t get hit.
One solution, suggested by an automotive industry official, is gates at each corner, which would periodically open to allow pedestrians to cross.
“With autonomous vehicles, the technical stuff will get worked out. It’s the societal part that’s the most challenging,” said Mark Rosekind, the chief safety innovation officer for Zoox, an autonomous vehicle developer.
The solution may be to programme vehicles based on the local customs. In California, keeping up with the flow of freeway traffic typically means driving 10 to 15mph over the posted limit, whereas drivers in some parts of the East stay much closer to the legal speed.
Autonomous vehicles are classified by six levels, from zero to five. Fully autonomous, Level 5, vehicles will not be available for 10 years or longer, and only after they’ve been tested for billions, not the current millions, of miles. But a Level 4 autonomous car that can completely drive itself under certain circumstances will come to market in five years or less, experts say.
While news media attention has recently focused on the handful of deaths caused by autonomous vehicles, education is needed to convince people that the self-driving cars will be much safer than today’s cars and trucks, which kill more than 30,000 people every year in the United States, Rosekind said.
“It’s going to be a mosh pit for the next 30 years,” said Gregory Winfree, director of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and a former assistant secretary at the transportation department.
The problems will be worst when autonomous and manually driven vehicles occupy the same roads; will a driver try to outwit a self-driving vehicle, or will that car always have the advantage? It’s possible that self-driving cars will need their own lanes, to avoid mixing it up with cars driven by humans, whose errors now account for 94% of vehicle crashes.
“We may be able to locate crosswalks at different locations,” said Chris Gerdes, director of Center for Automotive Research at Stanford University and a former chief innovation officer for the transportation department. “AVs may be able to sense the presence of pedestrians and slow down.” At the same time, it’s important that as communities change, possibly physically, they don’t become sterile 1960s ‘Jetsons’— like environments that favour vehicles.