As we all know, in New York city there are too many vehicles on the road with or without drivers. Too many SUVs. We also have a superb mass transit system . the last thing we need is an avalanche of additional vehicles on the streets.
However, we applaud the efforts of New York City to test Autonomous Vehicles (AV) for the first time in our intense environment. We the people – pedestrians and cyclists- are the guinea pigs with the most risks to be injured and killed – therefore deliberate prudence should be the rule. The proposed rules should be modified as follow to improve the odds of success:
School zones and small streets should be off-limits to AVs testing:
New York law defines public highways as “Any highway, road, street, avenue, alley, public place, public driveway or any other public way.” This includes our side streets with many residents, and schools.
For a first phase of the test, it would be prudent to restrict the test to arterials and wide streets and excludes small streets and any area within 500 ft a school.
Independent certification for pedestrian – bike protection is paramount
The certification requiring that the system be self-certified as “more safely than a human driver” is inadequate . REALLY? do you mean that 267 fatalities and nearly 58,000 injuries in New York city per year is the benchmark? It is a machine. It is not supposed to kill or injure any one .
We request that the AV operator provide an independent evaluation showing that the autonomous vehicles have been successfully tested for recognition and avoidance of pedestrians and cyclists , whether they are straight ahead or when they cross the cross-street while the light is green for both vehicles and bike/ped and the vehicle is turning.
These conflicts on our streets have been worsened with the use of mixing zones. 25% of pedestrian fatalities are due to left turn conflicts. It is critical that any AV test improve on these odds and not just reduce crashes with other vehicles – as commendable as it is – .
The operators should disclose their rules for gridlock, for jaywalking , and for passing cyclists.
The vehicle operator must be fully vetted
A driver’s license does not demonstrate a driver’s reliability or competence . If AVs are safer because they have no drivers, how is it that putting anyone behind the wheel will make them safer?? What we need is a super competent driver: New York City should require a driving history, including summonses and crashes in all states where the driver has operated.
Many municipalities will probably use New York City as a model when it comes to pedestrians and cyclists . It is New York City’s moral obligation as a leader to design a demonstration that minimizes risks to our most vulnerable populations. This is an opportunity to lead the way.
see Streetsblog articles on the topic.