Driverless Cars Will Not Solve the Bigger Problem with America's Roads
Autonomous vehicles are the newest technological advancement in transportation, but this new advancement comes with its own set of risks and controversy. One of the biggest questions safety advocates have is: how will the safety of others on the road, both drivers and passengers, be affected by these autonomous vehicles? These concerns have been heightened after a recent incident where a self-driving Uber hit and killed 49-year-old Elaine Hertzberg while she was crossing the street in Tempe, Arizona.
This accident was the first time an autonomous vehicle caused a fatal accident. However, Tempe law enforcement does not anticipate that Uber will be at-fault for the accident and resulting death. What does that mean for companies, like Uber, who offer transportation services and who are now moving towards using this autonomous technology in their services?
Proponents for autonomous vehicles say that this technology eliminates driver error and will lead to fewer traffic fatalities. However, the problem arises, though, when certain traffic features, including narrow sidewalks, wide roads, increased speed limits, as well as the same number of pedestrians and drivers, will not go away no matter who or what is controlling the car.
Decreasing the risk of fatalities on our nation's roadways will come from reducing traffic speed, increasing access to public transportation, and widening sidewalks, as well as bike lanes and crosswalks. The key is to make the cities more pedestrian-friendly, not increase the number of cars on the road by making them autonomous.
The fact remains that cities that are more focused on pedestrians tend to have fewer traffic fatalities per capita. The question arises as to how efforts can be made to focus on pedestrian safety while the use of vehicles, specifically autonomous ones, stays steady.
It is not clear whether the Uber-related death can be blamed on the technology, the driver who was behind the wheel or the design of the roads. At the time the accident occurred, the autonomous vehicle was traveling at a speed of 40 mph in an area zoned for 45 mph. The car did not slow down, however, as Hertzberg began to cross the road.
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