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Discussion: Autonomous Cars vs Cyclists and Runners

in: Orienteering; News

Nov 4, 2018 12:26 PM # 
Nature Magazine this week published a survey which is bad news for US cyclists and orienteers who run on roads:

.....largest ever survey of machine ethics finds that many of the moral principles that guide a driver’s decisions vary by country. For example, in a scenario in which some combination of pedestrians and passengers will die in a collision, people from relatively prosperous countries were less likely to spare a pedestrian [or runner]..... ethical paradox about self-driving cars: in surveys, people said that they wanted an autonomous vehicle to protect pedestrians even if it meant sacrificing its passengers — but also that they wouldn’t buy self-driving vehicles programmed to act this way.....

For instance, the author speculates that such data will cause US programmers to route driverless cars down the RIGHT side of car lanes rather than the center...just because such positioning reduces the number of side-swipes from other cars and trucks. But may take out a runner or two in so doing.

A follow-up article in Forbes last week added further dimensions to this dilemma.

.... Renault chief executive [said] that pesky cyclists could delay the arrival of the technology. “One of the biggest problems is people with bicycles. The car is confused by cyclists because from time-to-time they behave like pedestrians and from time-to-time they behave like cars.” He complained that cyclists were free-spirits: “They don’t respect any rules usually....."

As a result, rumor has it that bikes, pedestrians and runners might be banned from ALL roadways for a period of time, in order to facilitate the introduction of this important new technology.
Nov 4, 2018 1:52 PM # 
...important new technology.

Why stop there, just tie people down in their beds with a VR headset and let the computer do all the thinking for them.
Nov 4, 2018 1:53 PM # 
Nov 4, 2018 1:55 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
First...source of rumor? Did they speculate about how it would be enforced?

From Nature Magazine:

Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, is sceptical that the Moral Machine survey will have any practical use. He says that the study is unrealistic because there are few instances in real life in which a vehicle would face a choice between striking two different types of people. “I might as well worry about how automated cars will deal with asteroid strikes,” Walker Smith says.

The "wouldn't buy them" issue may be a moot point as things seem to point to ridesharing as the dominant first wave application of autonomous cars, where people will be renting their use. I've not heard of Uber drivers being interviewed on their preferences for passenger vs. pedestrian safety before people consent to being shuttled around, but I don't get out much.

From Forbes:

In 2015, a cyclist in Austin, Texas, confused a Google driverless car when he did a near-motionless “track-stand” at an intersection. The Google car was so bamboozled by the behavior of the balancing cyclist it would not budge.

For my money, an autonomous car reacting to potentially confusing bicycle behavior by stopping seems like a sensible and safe option.

Something like 7000 pedestrians and cyclists were killed in traffic accidents in 2017. My hunch is that something that can't play on its phone, can't drink, can't tend to children in the backseat, and can't have a bad day, while having 360 degree laser ranging and stereo cameras that enable them to see ninja-dressed runners and unlit cyclists while probably speeding less than human drivers will be less likely to hit them.

Disclaimer: I work on autonomous car steering (not the picking the steering part, just the pointing the steering someone else picked part) and my views don't represent my employer.
Nov 4, 2018 2:18 PM # 
Thank you Mr Wonderful; very interesting. But I think you guys are a bit naïve when it comes to the power and clout of the car industry in America. Billions of dollars of cost savings and efficiency improvements are coming to the American economy with the introduction of driverless vehicles. This technology is coming...soon. And the fate of a few runners and cyclists will just be so much collateral damage.

The best-case scenario may be that pedestrians and cyclists are required to carry some kind of transponder that broadcasts their identity and presence whenever on or near a roadway...just like aircraft have used for the past 75 years.
Nov 4, 2018 2:35 PM # 
It seems to me that this technology would best be implemented on motorways and interstate highways, but deactivated on two-way streets and in neighborhoods where pedestrians are present.
Nov 4, 2018 2:50 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
pedestrians and cyclists are required to carry some kind of transponder

Truly a dystopian future!

- Sent from my iPhone
Nov 4, 2018 3:24 PM # 
Just as long as they add a feature that stops doors from being opened when a cylist is detected...
Nov 4, 2018 4:01 PM # 
Actually AllstairH, such a 'dooring' prevention feature is available now, according to BikeBiz....

...Hyundai’s fourth-generation Santa Fe SUV introduces Safety Exit Assist which senses when cyclists are approaching from behind and temporarily locks the doors before being opened, so that the driver and any passengers can exit the car without killing or injuring somebody....
Nov 4, 2018 10:04 PM # 
I worry about how autonomous vehicles will navigate to the parking spot in a typical orienteering parking paddock.
Nov 5, 2018 1:16 AM # 
That's easy, put in a sensor that detects people wearing high vis orange waving their arms about and aim for that.
Nov 5, 2018 10:56 AM # 
...Truly a dystopian future!

Not really....I predict an app for that.
Nov 5, 2018 4:02 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Nov 5, 2018 5:49 PM # 
Indeed the first wave has already washed over us, so smooth you may not have even realized. I can’t, for example, ride my bike on an interstate. Nor can I run on them and that’s been going on for ages.

Wake up, people! The revolution won’t be televised!!!!
Nov 5, 2018 6:27 PM # 
Certain interstates, you can. Or away least that used to be the case, I don't know if there are any left, but I suspect there are.
Nov 5, 2018 8:27 PM # 
I-25 btw CO Springs and Pueblo?
Nov 5, 2018 8:50 PM # 
Don't think there is any commonly-enforced restrictions. The rule I've heard is that you have to use local roads, if they exist within twenty miles of the interstate. But I've ridden interstates all over the states west of the Mississippi and have never been stopped or questioned.

As a long-distance cyclist, you always have the trade-off: take your time on local roads and enjoy a safe and pleasant ride? Or hop on the parallel interstate, and really make time. Beside having better pavement on their shoulders than most local roads, the huge amount of grading to eliminate the hills and valleys when interstates are constructed becomes an unexpected pleasure.

But of course, you have to be on your guard for high-speed traffic swerving a foot or two onto your shoulder, and the intense 'bow-wave' of some 18-wheelers as they come by...the vacuum behind them can actually pull you out into the traffic lane. Interstate bridges are constructed for fat car tires. So it is wise to dismount and walk your bike across gaping expansion joints and metal plates rather than potato-chipping your front wheel if it drops into a long crack, or slips on the wet metal. And you're going to have more flats riding that debris-filled shoulder...just something you have to accept.
Nov 6, 2018 12:17 AM # 
Guy's example is one. Also I-70 west of Grand Junction and I-15 northeast of Las Vegas, and doubtless many others. I've been thrown off the interstate by the police twice, because there was an alternative road that was safer for bicycles. No hard feelings, they were looking out for my best interests (in one case the alternative was too small to show up on my map).
Nov 6, 2018 1:25 AM # 
In my state you're not allowed on the highway if there is a cycle path next to it (derr...) but if the path stops for a certain section of the highway - and this does happen - well then you are allowed back on it. Of course when they resurface the roads, typically they don't bother to resurface the part that bikes go on.
Nov 6, 2018 2:54 AM # 
But what will the google car do if the lidar is jammed by snowflakes and mud is covering the camera lens, lol.
Nov 8, 2018 9:04 AM # 
Anyone know if there are autonomous rail vehicles in use? Would seem to be an easier thing to control, but there's no sign of around here. All the talk is of roads (2-D) and FCS the air.
Nov 8, 2018 9:21 AM # 
Nov 9, 2018 2:33 AM # 
Doh. I think we've only just stopped employing "guards" to sit at the back. The sky was supposed to fall in when they were abolished. Haven't really advanced since this pioneering endeavour.
Nov 9, 2018 9:23 AM # 
We had an autonomous train in WA a few days ago... for about 90km... after the train rolled away when the driver got out to do an inspection. Deliberate derailment required to stop the train before it reached civilisation and potentially costing the company $55 million per day while it all gets fixed/cleaned up.
Nov 9, 2018 3:13 PM # 
>> lidar is jammed by snowflakes

Those are special snowflakes
Jan 22, 2019 6:07 PM # 
Update: The Battle heats up: Folks in Chandler, Arizona are getting angry at the driverless cars appearing on their streets, where a pedestrian was run over and killed last year. The cars are now being attacked with knives and rocks, with insults hurled at the helpless test driver inside.

Apparently folks regard these drivers kind of like strike breakers or scabs...

....analysts say they expect more such behavior as the nation moves into a broader discussion about the potential for driverless cars to unleash colossal changes in American society. The debate touches on fears ranging from eliminating jobs for drivers, to ceding control over mobility to autonomous vehicles.

“People are lashing out justifiably," said a media theorist. He likened driverless cars to robotic incarnations of scabs — workers who take the place of those on strike. “There’s a growing sense that the giant corporations [developing] driverless technologies do not have our best interests at heart. Just think about the humans inside who are essentially training the artificial intelligence that will replace them.”
Jan 22, 2019 6:30 PM # 
Why did I just goggle "open the pod doors hal"
Jan 22, 2019 9:47 PM # 
Sailboat and other small craft use radar reflector to improve detection from larger vessels. A similar idea could work for bicycles.

Motorcycles use daytime headlights to increase their chances of being seen.

Driverless technology will figure out how to incorporate cyclists and pedestrians.
Jan 22, 2019 11:53 PM # 
“There’s a growing sense that the giant corporations [developing] driverless technologies do not have our best interests at heart"
So when was this ever not true about any giant corporation?
Jan 23, 2019 1:20 AM # 
Mr Wonderful:
I can't read the articles after what the cited sources did to the position of town cryer.
Jan 25, 2019 11:22 AM # 
Sailboat and other small craft use radar reflector to improve detection from larger vessels. A similar idea could work for bicycles.

Cyclists wear brightly colored or reflective clothing, and carry strobes, to improve detection by organic drivers. Radar reflectors are even simpler.
Jan 25, 2019 11:31 AM # 
So twentieth-century!

Cell phone apps carried by cyclists and pedestrians could be more reliable, powerful and compact. And the screens in those driverless cars are going to look as crowded as the radars of flight controllers at ATL or ORD! :-)
Aug 3, 2019 1:03 PM # 
...if pedestrians [and cyclists] know they’ll never be run over, [walking and biking in the middle of the street] could explode, grinding traffic to a halt..One solution suggested by the automotive industry, is [a bike ban, and fenced sidewalks with] gates at each corner, which would periodically open to allow pedestrians to cross....

An article in the NYTImes yesterday carried the thinking about our autonomous car future a couple of worrisome steps further.

Another negative: since they will be programmed to avoid speeding and parking tickets, local revenues will fall, forcing taxes up dramatically.

Such a future is less than 5 years away, according to experts. And once AVs begin to mix with manually-driven cars, our roads will become 'a mosh pit' for the next 30-40 years. Especially since V2V and V2X technology is being developed to allow AVs to 'talk' to other AVs and traffic infrastructure in order to anticipate and plan safe, speedy the expense of manually-driven cars.

Unfortunately neither federal nor local governments are doing much to prepare for coming private ownership of AVs. And the fear is that 'crash planning' at the last moment might result in restricting our roads and communities to become sterile 'Jetsons' environments that favor vehicles only....bikes, runners and pedestrians not allowed.
Aug 3, 2019 1:54 PM # 
I've wondered about this, and have envisioned a slightly different scenario. This came from what happened when they put a radar sensor on the road leading into the facility where I work, with a display showing your speed. Did it encourage drivers to slow down? Not at all, it created an informal contest* between certain employees to see who could get the highest reading on the radar display.

So what I imagine is that when there are autonomous cars on the road, they'll be recognizable, and there will be a subset of drivers who cut them off with aplomb, knowing that the robot cars will do whatever it takes to avoid a collision.

*This happened some years before I started working there, but I found out about the contest when they put up a radar display again this year. The particular offending drivers no longer work at that facility, but the coworker who told me about it said that times have changed, and these days the contest would probably be to get the highest reading and snap a picture of it with your cell phone.
Aug 3, 2019 5:02 PM # 
Which bring up the integration of all of these Things (full of sensors and cameras) with Big Data and facial (and vehicular) recognition. Maybe our AI spawn will work out ways to discourage these kinds of dangerous and illegal activities?
Aug 3, 2019 7:28 PM # 
Right. Simple solution is to bill the E-ZPass account of the "winning" drivers.
Aug 3, 2019 9:26 PM # 
Check out AI hacking and the potential for monetisation. Maybe this future isn't so close.
Aug 5, 2019 4:17 AM # 
Mr Wonderful:
Another negative: since they will be programmed to avoid speeding and parking tickets, local revenues will fall, forcing taxes up dramatically.

Also a compelling reason to discourage bicycle commuting. I can almost never speed!
Aug 5, 2019 8:17 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
Local collection (and use!) of traffic fines are an obviously bad idea, speed traps/red light cameras etc needs to be located where they minimize the total number of traffic fatalities and severe accidents, not where they generate the most income.

We keep setting new records in reducing total traffic fatalities here in Norway, both by capita and by total km driving distance, even though we have some of the worst (year round) driving conditions in the world.
Aug 5, 2019 9:31 PM # 
Currently we are cycling in the Lofoten Islands and the Norwegian drivers are great. They wait to pass on narrow roads until they can get a clear view of the road. They stop if you are at a cross walk. Had none wind down the window and say "get off the f****g" road"

Shame drivers in Australia can't learn a bit more responsible driving.
Aug 6, 2019 4:15 AM # 
Re the electronic speed display at JJ's workplace. If more than 15% of drivers are exceeding the speed limit, instead of putting up a sign, authorities need to investigate whether the current speed limit is arbitrarily low for the conditions and not optimized for safety, resulting in greater speed differential between vehicles, more impatience, more reckless passing and tailgaiting. The 85th percentile principle is well studied and documented to optimize safety; unfortunately insurance companies and those who benefit from enforcement revenue continue to push for lower limits, shorter yellow light times, and other practices that increase their revenue regardless of also diminishing safety and increasing congestion.

Agree with LOST, we could do with a lot more courtesy to cyclists, pedestrians, and other drivers here in the USA as well.
Aug 6, 2019 7:59 AM # 
Yeah I'm going to miss Denmark when I get back on the roads here in Aus, although I've spotted a fair few cycling lanes in Cairns so far.
Aug 6, 2019 10:42 AM # 
The road in question where I work isn't really a public road (I'm not sure where the town jurisdiction stops). It's a dead-end driveway into a private business, that passes through a condo development and then a farm. At the point where the radar was located, the speed limit is set by the company, because you're basically in the parking lot at that point.
Aug 6, 2019 2:05 PM # 
If more than 15% of drivers are exceeding the blood alcohol limit, instead of discouraging drunk-driving, authorities need to investigate whether the current blood alcohol limit is abritrarily low and not optimised for safety, resulting in greater sobriety differential between drivers, unsynchronised swerving, lapses in concentration and murder with heavy metal object.

Agree with LOST on choice of holiday destination. Twenty-four-seven sunshine, spectacular landscape and great drivers that would occasionally stop for hitch-hikers, in my experience.
Aug 6, 2019 7:50 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
I have to agree with the Lofoten suggestion, I have a kayak trip from Reine on my To-Do list: 10 km paddle into the bottom of Kjerkefjorden (Church Fjord), then hike half a km to the saddle point and watch the midnight sun from the most beautiful (IMHO) Confluence Degree point in the world:
Aug 6, 2019 11:21 PM # 
Confluences? Hadn't heard of those. I got within 30m of the nearest one to me back in March.
Aug 7, 2019 5:41 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@ndobbs: If you have a couple of photos from near your (5) marker, then you could submit this as a visit. According to Rainer Mautz, one of the project coordinators and the most prolific confluence visitor in the world, the road got within 60 m.

Rainer have personally visited more than 700 confluences in 113 different countries around the world!

I'm around 20 on the top list, with 100+ visits in 20+ countries.

This discussion thread is closed.