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Autonomous Vehicles Need to See Cyclists and Pedestrians

AVs need to be held accountable for their use of the streets of Pittsburgh.

Photo of Anna Tang
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While it’s impossible to know when an AV is in self-driving mode or is human operated, people clearly want transparency and accountability, and as long as it’s left to nonprofits to collect anecdotes, people will be slow to trust the AV companies, especially if they deny problems with the technology or blame their drivers whenever something goes wrong. When a negative interaction occurs, most people will assume that it’s the fault of the robot, so it’s up to AV companies to take responsibility and create a clear course for improvement. AVs also contribute to Pittsburgh's already polluted air quality and increase car congestion in the developing and crowded Strip District. Recently, multiple housing developments, new offices, and autonomous vehicle testing have increased the motorized traffic in this same corridor. While job and residential growth can be positive, there has been no plan to manage this increased traffic demand on our streets. As the saying goes, if we plan for cars what we get is more cars, if we plan for people we get more people. If we increase the number of people living and working in a neighborhood without providing safe biking and walking facilities, people will drive and park wherever they can. To complicate matters, if we allow companies to test autonomous vehicles without providing bike lanes we are further putting people in harm’s way. Providing safe and connected bikeways and sidewalks will ensure that jobs and amenities are available to all

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Photo of Aly Stone

Hi Anna, welcome and thanks for the post! It seems you are addressing two issues here - pedestrian safety in general and more specifically with the addition of autonomous vehicles. I do recall the self-driving ubers having those large spinning sensors on top of them, which was nice for identification purposes. I am unsure if other AVs are set up in a similar fashion. So where would you start with addressing these concerns? Would you intervene with the vehicle safety and set up, or would you work on improving bike lane access?
-Aly, community facilitator

Photo of Anna Tang

Hi Aly, I would say that Im trying to address the issue that AVs need to have accountability and a place for people to send feedback. A solution to this is having a predictable place for bikes and pedestrians to be. I.e. sidewalks and bike lanes. Since AVs operate with predictability and set boundaries having these spaces would help AVs drive and give peds and cyclists the space and place to be to feel safe. But to help with the development of AVs there needs to be a way to provide feedback and ensure safety now. So the issue goes hand in hand. I would like to have a way for feedback and a way to gives cyclists and peds a safe place to move.

Photo of Aly Stone

Ah, so then times of construction may be problematic for AV function...but perhaps there could be a reporting system such as in Waze? The need for feedback is a very great point as autonomous vehicles are gaining so much traction and as Heather Tomko mentioned in a comment on the post Disabilities - mobility is a common barrier for people with disabilities , it's important to address concerns (such as safety and accessibility) early on, while this mode of transit is still gaining traction rather than afterwards.

Photo of Donell Badgett

I don't trust humans programming anything.