Cycling
March 26, 2018

Do We Accept That Autonomous Vehicles Will Kill Pedestrians?


Autonomous Vehicles (or AVs) were to make life easier with less road crashes and carnage. Nearly 38,000 people in the United States are annually killed on roads, and that number is rising. Autonomous vehicles would enable transportation for people who did not have drivers’ licences, and also dealt with the pesky problem of  drivers getting older. Statistics Canada figures from 2009 show that almost 28 per cent of drivers over the age of 65 are driving with some form of dementia. Autonomous vehicles would allow everyone to be mobile that could afford to use their services.
Transportation experts have continually pointed out that despite the positives of universal access to AVs there are some fundamental problems. Autonomous vehicles do not get rid of congestion, they just add to it. And while there may be less parked cars in downtowns and in cities, the streets may be designed to allow for the flow of autonomous vehicles and may not be inclusive of active transportation users such as cyclists and pedestrians. Perhaps that is the fundamental question: are we so engaged by this shiny new technology that human-powered active transportation and human based design of place and cities will be suppressed for the latest iteration of motordom?
In Tempe Arizona a homeless lady with her bicycle was struck and killed by an autonomous Uber. Sadly as reported in City Lab  by David Alpert, the police reported that the lady was not in a crosswalk, and the fatal road violence was blamed upon the dead victim. Nine other pedestrians had died in Arizona that week, but this death, by an autonomous vehicle was the one that garnered attention. But if all road deaths are reduced by 90 per cent, is that a reason to embrace this technology? “The woman was, indeed, not in a crosswalk. Bizarrely, there is a direct, curving brick path through the area, but it’s strictly ornamental: Pedestrians are forbidden from using it, and there are multiple signs posted to tell people not to use the path. The path follows what seems to be the most logical route to a nearby bus stop, and crosses the roads at narrower (and thus less harrowing) spots than the official crosswalk, which requires traversing seven lanes, counting turn lanes.This is the engineering reality of much of Tempe, and much of suburban America: Designers create inhospitable environments in which to walk, then try to prohibit walking in the least inhospitable parts of those environments. And often, when someone is killed, police rush to exonerate the driver.”
The Federation of International Pedestrians has been resolute in saying that no death is acceptable, and has insisted that autonomous vehicles be programmed to save all road users, not just the ones in the vehicle. There is an interest in adopting edicts like “Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities” which prioritizes people’s lives over the vehicle occupants. But as Alpert observes “We can insist that any pedestrian death is not acceptable, just as we do for aviation, where all incidents are studied intently, and commercial aviation deaths worldwide have plummeted from 2,469 people in 55 crashes in 1972 to just 44 fatalities—and none in a passenger jet—worldwide in 2017. There have been zero deaths on U.S. airlines since 2009.” 
It is time to stop justifying deaths on roads because of “speed” or “convenience”.  “Let this, the first recorded pedestrian killed by an autonomous car, set a better example for what we expect of our roads, and the technologies transforming them.”

 

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Aaron Knorr is a senior architect with Perkins + Will.  But, according to his business card, he’s also a “Future Mobility Researcher” – not something you’d ordinarily associate with an architectural firm.
Knorr proved the worth of those words last week when, for a select crowd, he presented the following:

It was a valuable presentation, providing both a good summary of a fast-changing topic and insights into the consequences both anticipated and possible – with lots of implications for architects.
Fortunately for those not in the room, Aaron has produced a report:

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With a death of a pedestrian the seemingly relentless march forward of autonomous vehicles has taken a pause as reported by the New York Times.  From a legislative standpoint autonomous vehicles (AVs) are operating in a piece meal legal environment, and the state of Arizona was an early adopter, inviting these vehicles  to be tested on the state’s road network in a “regulation free zone.  “Then on Sunday night, an autonomous car operated by Uber — and with an emergency backup driver behind the wheel — struck and killed a woman on a street in Tempe, Ariz. It was believed to be the first pedestrian death associated with self-driving technology. The company quickly suspended testing in Tempe as well as in Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto. The accident was a reminder that self-driving technology is still in the experimental stage, and governments are still trying to figure out how to regulate it.”
The Uber car, a Volvo XC90 sport utility vehicle outfitted with the company’s sensing system, was in autonomous mode with a human safety driver at the wheel but carrying no passengers when it struck Elaine Herzberg, a 49-year-old woman, on Sunday around 10 p.m. Sgt. Ronald Elcock, a Tempe police spokesman, said during a news conference that a preliminary investigation showed that the vehicle was moving around 40 miles per hour when it struck Ms. Herzberg, who was walking with her bicycle on the street. He said it did not appear as though the car had slowed down before impact and that the Uber safety driver had shown no signs of impairment. The weather was clear and dry.
There has been early discussion on the computer based “ethics” of the autonomous vehicle, and the fact that the vehicle was being designed to save its occupants first. Autonomous vehicles have been hailed as way to stem the annual deaths of over 37,000 (2016 figures) people on the road by safer, logical control. But the technology is only a decade old, and “now starting to experience the unpredictable situations that drivers can face.”
This tragic incident makes clear that autonomous vehicle technology has a long way to go before it is truly safe for the passengers, pedestrians, and drivers who share America’s roads,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut. While autonomous vehicle testing has temporarily halted with this death, investigators  are examining what led to this vehicle’s failure to recognize the pedestrian. Vehicle developers have expressed challenges in teaching the systems to adjust for unpredictable human behaviour. As a professor at Arizona State University expressed “We’ve imagined an event like this as a huge inflection point for the technology and the companies advocating for it,” he said. “They’re going to have to do a lot to prove that the technology is safe.”

 
 
 

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Robin Chase of osmosys.org joins the discussion (debate?) on the impacts of AVs – autonomous vehicles.  Her perspective is binary:

Self-driving cars are coming! Will their future deliver us a transportation heaven, or hellacious cities? How they impact labor, energy, land use, and tax revenue is in our hands.

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From City Councillor and Urbanist Patrick Johnstone, on the City of New Westminster’s Transportation Forums at Innovation Week:
Thursday March 1 would be a good day to spend in New Westminster if you are interested in learning about urban transportation and how we pay for it. As part of Innovation Week, the City of New Westminster is hosting free events all day where planning professionals, policy experts, and anyone with an interest in the future of the region can learn about how technology is changing transportation planning, and could re-shape the region. The day starts with a Keynote presentation by Robin Chase, the transportation entrepreneur behind ZipCar and Veniam. She will be speaking about a positive vision for shared mobility, based on her international experience at the cutting edge of car share and creating the information solutions required to make them work.
The day will be populated with panels featuring thought leaders in local government, academia, and private companies working in applying new technology to transportation. The conversations will be relevant to people working in planning, but also those interested in the region’s sustainability, and those who are trying to find opportunity in the disruptive aspects of the new tech. Panels through the day include:
· The future of, and challenges for, public entities managing Open Data to make transportation systems and cities work better;
· Electric vehicles, and how we can build the necessary infrastructure and data systems to support their charging needs in our existing built environment;
· Autonomous vehicles, and a “fireside chat” about what they mean for our economy, for mobility within our cities, and for our existing public transportation systems.
The evening forum will discuss Road Pricing Congestion Charges Mobility Pricing, and what it means to the Lower Mainland as the Mayors Council looks to implement some form of it to fund future regional transportation investment. The panel discussion will feature the Vice Chair of TransLink’s Independent Commission on Mobility Pricing, Joy McPhail, sustainable urban planning gadabout Brent Toderian, and Economist Marc Lee from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The combination should result in a dynamic discussion around what TransLink is trying to achieve, what it means for the shape of our cities and our region, and what the public policy implications are as we try to develop a “fairer” pricing system for transportation.
All events are free, you can come and go as you like, but the organizers would love if people can register to let them plan better.
It will be a long day, but don’t feel the need to pack a lunch, as the Anvil Centre is surrounded by several great restaurants and pubs if you need refreshments. Look for Councillor Patrick Johnstone to give you the best restaurant advice to fit your taste and/or budget! A list of the several events is available on the Innovation Week website:
https://www.newwestcity.ca/innovation-week
Transportation Forums (part of Innovation Week)
March 1, 2018
10:00. Keynote by Robin Chase
11:00. Open Data 101
1:30. Electric Vehicles and Charging Infrastructure
3:15. Autonomous Vehicles
4:00 Wrap-up and Reception
6:00 Mobility Pricing Independent Commission
Anvil Centre (across the street from the New Westminster SkyTrain Station)
Open to the public, limited seating, please register to assure a seat.

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Allison Arieff in her New York Times signature style  nails the conversation down on why Autonomous Vehicles can certainly drive themselves, but may also serve to just further congest our cities.
The twentieth century has been about technological advances in machines and speed, and that has spilled over in how streets are used and occupied. Streets in the early 1900’s were part of  public life, where people sat on porches and stoops, meandered across streets, and used streets for all modes of transportation from foot, horse to rail tram. It was only when the automobile became popular were other activities on streets relegated to unfortunate raised sidewalk streets while motordom reigned supreme.
Despite car manufacturer’s utopian vision of autonomous vehicles providing freedom from the chore of actually driving the car, lessening accidents and providing seamless access to places, one twentieth century reality will remain~these are still vehicles, and vehicles choke city streets.
Ms. Arieff’s video is here on this link.
 
https://nyti.ms/2F7onIK
 

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What do you do when you are the active transportation manager for one of the largest industrial parks in Great Britain? Milton Park  houses 7,500 workers and 250 businesses on a 250 acre site. It is located near Milton Oxfordshire and is known for leading work on science and technology. If you are Veronica Reynolds the “Behavioural Change Advisor” at Vectos, you build connected bikeways and walkways, and secure funding for  autonomous vehicle shuttles to move people around the industrial park.

The United Kingdom’s first trial of autonomous vehicles on public roads will be implemented here to reduce car usage in this industrial park by fifty per cent.Funded by Innovate UK, 2.5 million pounds has been awarded to trial self driving vehicles between the private roads within the industrial park and the public roads linking the site to the nearby bus and train network. Even though the industrial park is close to a transit station most travel to and from Milton Park is by private car. The new cycling paths and walkways  augment the autonomous vehicle buses, which will also network in with the expansion of the site planned in the coming years. Commuters will book and pay for their autonomous vehicle shuttle to the industrial park from the transportation hub in one easy process.

“Veronica Reynolds said: “A key aim of the Milton Park Travel Forum is to work closely with the Park’s business leaders to future-proof the park’s transport offer. This innovative new project builds on the work of that Forum and its vision to provide more and greener travel options. We would like to thank everyone at Milton Park for the support we have received to date which has undoubtedly contributed to the success in securing this project funding.”

And that is how one active transportation manager had an industrial park in Britain become one of the first offering  workers the opportunity of using an autonomous vehicle shuttle on their daily commute.

 

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Innovation Week
FEBRUARY 23 – MARCH 3, 2018
Innovation isn’t just about technology, it’s about creativity, problem solving, collaboration, and looking at things a different way. In the City of New Westminster as we host Innovation Week from February 23 to March 3, 2018, a celebration of all things innovative in our city and the region.

Help us kick off Innovation Week as we take over City Hall and immerse visitors in a digital media performance featuring music and visuals produced in collaboration with: New Westminster Youth Services Royal City Sound, Arts Council of New Westminster, the New Media Gallery, and 4th term Computer Science students at BCIT.

Check the website at   www.newwestcity.ca/innovatenw
Events include the  Innovation Forum, Transportation Forum, Business Expo, the 2nd Annual Hack-a-thon, art exploration, networking and learning opportunities, and child and youth activities! There is something for everyone.
Follow along at @innovatenw
For more information, please contact Ruby Campbell at 604-515-3821 or innovatenw@newwestcity.ca.
Innovation Week Opening Reception

February 23, 2018 5:30 pm 8:30 pm City Hall, 511 Royal Avenue Also featuring a special, limited edition brew from Steel & Oak to commemorate Innovation Week.
Refreshments served. Cash Bar. Open to the public. Announcements at 7pm.

 

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