Let’s Talk About Self-Driving Cars
Artur Kiulian

To describe the recreational driver as a hindrance and regulation waiting to happen might miss some important points. One is that not all vehicles will reach level 3, 4 or 5 automation at the same time, or ever. There are fire trucks and ambulances that need to be driven in exceptional circumstances, and those may well include an emergency or natural disaster serious enough for V2V and internet communications to be down. This means (IMHO) that automated cars will always need to be ready for sharing the road with human driven vehicles.

Another human-driven vehicle case to bear in mind is that there is a long history of bicycle users being part of the “road environment” and of course, part of the legal framework for using the public roads. In the same way that 4 wheeled vehicles are getting smarter and less polluting, 2 wheeled vehicles are getting electric motors to support or replace the pedal power. Are we really going to restrict the use of bicycles in order to accommodate self-driving cars?

The obvious evolution from bicycles in the 20th century was the invention of motorcycles. With today’s technology, big motorbikes will get motors producing many kW or power like their petrol counterparts do, while bicycles riders will benefit from a cheap and low powered “assist” motor. As we keep improving batteries and motors, bicycles will easily get to a stage when pedalling is optional. In effect, they are motorcycles minus the headlights, turn signals, high-powered brakes, ABS and insured rider with a driving licence. They are just not as obvious to identify as a motor vehicle as a Harley Davidson Road King.

Ultimately, I think that instead of promoting legal changes to how everyone uses the road to make way for AI-managed travel, we should promote building cities with a smaller legacy to contend with. Cities where the pedestrian-only area is the rule rather than exception, where bicycles (powered or otherwise) can be seen by AI-managed vehicles and share the road in a safer way than what is possible with human drivers. This means that inside the city nobody travels at high speed, but everyone gets to their destinations quickly.

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