Wednesday, August 15, 2018

But For Years People Have Told Me They Would Be Safer Than Humans

Safety has never been my issue, and it isn't the issue here. If they work they'll be safe enough. It's almost tautological. I just don't think they'll work. This stuff isn't about making them safe, it's about trying (and still failing) to make them work with massive amounts of taxpayer money. The headline of that article is "To Make Self-Driving Cars Safe, We Also Need Better Roads and Infrastructure" but the article isn't really about safety, unless we define safety as "not having a license to play Death Race 2000" (I forgot Stallone was in that movie!). It's about making them function. It's a big country. Good luck with that.

This means that we need to think not just about the onboard technology but also about the environment in which it is deployed. We’ll likely start to see a more standardized and active environment as more smart infrastructure is constructed. Think of radio transmitters replacing traffic lights, higher-capacity mobile and wireless data networks handling both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, and roadside units providing real-time data on weather, traffic, and other conditions. Common protocols and communications standards will have to be devised and negotiated, as they were with internet communication protocols or the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) for mobile phones. This transition will take decades, and autonomous vehicles will have to share the roads with human drivers.

If rapid, radical change to the driving environment is impractical, what is the alternative? The most likely near-term scenario we’ll see are various forms of spatial segregation: Self-driving cars will operate in some areas and not others. We’re already seeing this, as early trials of the technology are taking place in designated test areas or in relatively simple, fair-weather environments. But we may also see dedicated lanes or zones for self-driving vehicles, both to give them a more structured environment while the technology is refined and to protect other road users from their limitations.