The idea that we should reconfigure cities to accommodate the limitations of robot cars is stupid.
It’s History Schmistory stupid:
Special report Behind the mostly fake “battle” about driverless cars (conventional versus autonomous is the one that captures all the headlines), there are several much more important scraps. One is over the future of the city: will a city be built around machines or people? How much will pedestrians have to sacrifice for the driverless car to succeed?
But the driverless car has to deal with pedestrians, as Christian Wolmar discussed at The Register last week: “The open spaces that cities like to encourage would end as the barricades go up. And foot movement would need to be enforced with Singapore-style authoritarianism.”
“The randomness of the environment such as children or wildlife cannot be dealt with by today’s technology,” admits Volvo’s director of autonomous driving, Markus Rothoff. The driverless car can’t hear you scream. Tests are not being conducted in real pedestrian-congested conditions.
The cheat is: just get rid of the people around cars, so you don’t need to solve these problems.
When people talk about the future of self-driving cars in the foreseeable future, this is what they mean.
If this sounds far fetched, I will remind you that there is a recent historical precedent: In the early 20th century, they restructured the city, and criminalized what had been ordinary walking: They called it “Jaywalking”.
Do not underestimate the willingness of people who profit from driverless cars to restrict the rest of us, and to place the costs on society as a whole.
They have done it before.