March 26, 2018

Putting Tags on Cyclists, Pedestrians for the Autonomous Vehicle Future?

In the “you just can’t make this stuff up” department, Bike Biz notes that Manuel Marsilio, general manager of the Confederation for the European Bicycle Industry has spoken out about the need for cyclists to “identify” themselves for autonomous vehicles. With the salvo that lives will be saved with “cycle to vehicle” sensors,  Marsilio made his comments at the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland. “It is the goal of the “connected car” industry to make cyclists wear sensors or beacons so they can be detected more easily. Currently, “erratic” cyclists are hard to detect by autonomous vehicles. And pedestrians, too, are often not spotted by a plethora of detection devices on the most tricked-out “driverless cars.”
Of course the example of the lady killed by a self-driving Uber car in Arizona was also trotted out as an example of why pedestrians could benefit from wearing a “vehicle tracker”. While there have been previous iterations of bicycle to vehicle communication systems, “B2V is a new addition to the Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything technology. C-V2X connects equipped vehicles to a larger communications system allowing them to communicate with other vehicles, pedestrian devices, cyclists and roadside infrastructure, such as traffic signs and construction zones.”
It has been pointed out that if cyclists need to have beacons and pedestrians need trackers that “smart” cars are not yet smart. While cycling is growing for health and to get around congestion, Mr. Marsilio stated that the main concern was cycling safety, and the need for communication with other road users, and a good legislative environment was needed for users to adopt tracker technology. Mr. Marsilio observed “Bicycles of the near future will have sensors that will allow cyclists to be detected by car drivers. It’s not a [case] of putting a chip in bodies or to force everybody to have a smart watch, the main idea is to have bicycles equipped with the necessary equipment in order to be able to be connected with all vehicles.”
As expected, there has been plenty of reaction to this story and the motordom based solution to have beacons on all road users. And once again, it shows how the embracing of a new technology can warp the understanding that active transportation users and pedestrians need to be embraced and embedded into a city’s living fabric. Should cyclists and pedestrians be bowing to the new needs of autonomous motordom? Not so much.

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  2. We all grew up having reflectors on our bikes, and they were a good thing. How would having anonymous digital reflectors be any different? When these things get made for pedestrians, I’m putting one in my wallet.

    1. And then one day your kid forgets their’s and that’s the end of them because you encouraged AVs before they were truly ready.

      1. AVs don’t get tired, drunk, or distracted, and they obey all of the laws all of the time. They don’t speed. They don’t run red lights. They have no blind spots. They are hyper-vigilant and they are aware of their surroundings by a full 360 degrees. Even in their current state of development, I’d rather have the roads filled AVs than fill with the people I see driving their cars and their cel phones at the same time. Will AVs will keep getting better. Yes, obviously. Are they currently perfect? Only when you compare them with human drivers. Ever lost someone to a drunk or distracted driver?

        1. I hope that they obey laws. What happens though when it’s decided that obeying laws slows things down too much so they decide that anyone who can’t afford to use one has an expendable life?
          I see all this as the auto industry doing the same tactics as they used for the past century. Why should we trust them this time?

        2. So far, the record is that AVs are far less safe than human drivers, hopefully that will change, but it will take a long time before we know.

  3. Enough is enough!
    We transformed the entire world for the profit of the auto and oil industries already and where did it lead us?
    The pedestrian in Arizona had reflective shoes and the bike had reflectors and the car still didn’t stop.
    Anyone who’s spent some time in the Netherlands knows that there’s a better way. That’s what our goal should be, not make everyone where a radio transmitter so that some corporations can keep making profit.

    1. Agreed. How safe are AVs? vs. How safe are the streets, bike-lanes, and pedestrian routes?
      Which AV / bike / pedestrian conflicts are best fixed through roadway, bike-lane, and sidewalk solutions? When you have thin sidewalks unbuffered from high-volume fast-moving traffic, every now and then, someone is going to trip or get bumped into the traffic, and the laws of physics won’t allow any vehicle to stop in time, regardless of whether it’s driven by a computer or a human. The solution here has to be a roadway-design / pedestrian-buffer solution. No amount of tweaking the AV control systems is likely completely fix this problem. Although, AV systems would presumably react faster and have a better chance of minimizing injuries.

    2. A better way? or just a different way ?
      AV software and sensors will evolve. It was an unfortunate accident and in no time the software and sensors will be improved. If a sensor incl associated software system cannot detect a biker or a pedestrian (in ANY weather, be it snowy, icy, foggy, dark or bright) obviously it is not yet ready for prime time.
      AVs will come in stages, from auto-assist to fully autonomous .. over the next few years and decades .. and maybe by 2025 even in Vancouver I can blog on this post legally while being driven by my new AV to my next meeting .. or will it be 2035 if Uber pickup pacing in Vancouver is any indication ? or 2040 ?

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