Self-driving car industry, promises safety, pushes on DOT plan to regulate testing – Streetsblog New York City

Do not put the steering wheel in our hands!

How Streetsblog has covered the story.
How Streetsblog has covered the story.

A cross section of representatives from autonomous vehicle companies demanded that the city’s Department of Transportation loosen the proposed rules, which require it to operate “more safely than a human driver” before testing on average roads in the city. This will require driverless cars.

In the hearing held on Wednesday, about half a dozen autonomous car manufacturers and their advocates spoke about the proposed rules. [PDF] Will turn New York City from an engine of innovation into a backwater that will back the development of potentially life-saving technology of computer-controlled cars and trucks that can mess everything up without a lousy human being.

“New York City has always been a place of creativity and innovation, but these regulations will make New York one of the least hospitable cities in America for AV development,” said Montana Williams, director of the Chamber of State and Local Public Policy. Progress, an advocacy group.

“With AV’s tremendous potential to make New York City a safer and more equitable city, it is vitally important to test, improve and deploy autonomous vehicles without delay,” he said. “To support people with disabilities, address food deserts, and reduce traffic deaths, DOT must negate these additional barriers to New York’s autonomous vehicle future.”

Currently, only one company — Mobileye, a division of Intel — is testing AV cars in New York City, with seven driverless cars expected to be deployed, as Streetsblog recently reported. The company has released a 40-minute video of its driverless car performing more or less flawlessly in Manhattan and Queens — and, given that the majority of today’s hundreds of thousands of city crashes are the result of driver error, the industry believes. ​​It is only a matter of time before the public sees the benefits of getting humans out of the driver’s seat.

“Accidents are caused by reckless driving, driver inattention, failure to yield and speeding,” said Wayne Weickel of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, another advocacy group. “Will driverless cars be safe? Given the number of accidents today, how could they not be? Autonomous vehicle technology is the key to meeting Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero goals.”

The public – at least those who testified at the DOT’s brief hearing – certainly aren’t convinced yet.

A Bay Ridge resident named John testified that he was intrigued by comments made by Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua about how driverless cars can safely use human driving strategies to reduce the impatience and potential recklessness of other drivers on the road. imitate.

“if [a human driver puts] At the turn signal, nobody even cares,” Shashua had said at an industry gathering recently. “So what do you do? You start merging and you do it carefully. [with] the distances you keep [between cars] in such a way that your elbow is protected. The same is the case with pedestrians. If you just stand there, the pedestrian will continue to cross and you will never move. So you start moving slowly, nudge, nudge, indicating your intention that you’re about to pass, but do it in a way that you keep a safe distance. Shashua said driverless cars would have to do a version of the same.

Bay Ridge resident John was outraged by Shashua’s description of driverless technology. “These cars will endanger pedestrians, threaten and if they don’t get out of the way fast enough,” he said. “I don’t want to deal with a dead child because some guy wrote a computer code that determined that the child was moving too slowly down the street.”

Christine Barth of venerable pedestrian advocacy group CHEKPEDS said she saw the potential for autonomous vehicles to be safer than faulty human drivers, but wanted to make sure the city’s regulatory plan protected the most vulnerable road users during the trial .

“It would be prudent to limit testing to narrow streets and wide lanes and exclude smaller lanes and any areas within 500 feet of the school,” he said. “It is New York City’s moral obligation as a leader to create a performance that minimizes the risk to our most vulnerable populations.”

Berthet’s group also called for city rules requiring an AV car’s backup driver to be more than just a licensed driver—a strange irony, given that driverless car companies want to replace human drivers as humans. are very flawed.

“A driver’s license does not demonstrate the credibility of a driver’s competence,” Berthet said.

But industry leaders also hailed the DOT’s proposed rules for testing as inconsistent with existing federal and state protocols (currently, any AV company that gets state permission can operate anywhere in the state, including New York City). can test its cars, which is why the city DOT is working to create new rules before Mayor de Blasio leaves office on December 31).

And Mobileye’s Angel Preston specifically questioned how companies will prove their cars work “safer” than human ones as a pre-requisite for obtaining permits.

“What’s the metric? Crash? Little mistake? Traffic violation?” He asked.

Ellie Casson of Waymo, another AV company, then tried to put the DOT on the defensive by promulgating rules to curb irregular testing.

“We truly believe that AV has the potential to provide safe transportation options to millions of New Yorkers and is a valuable addition to the transportation ecosystem,” she said. “We’re interested in bringing this life-saving technology to New York and we don’t think the DOT would want to withhold those benefits from people.”

Burtett suggests that Heaven can wait.

“The problem in New York City is that there are too many vehicles on the road,” she said. “The last thing we need is additional vehicles. We appreciate AV’s testing in our intense environment, but we people, pedestrians and cyclists are guinea pigs and are at greatest risk of injury.”

The city has said it wants additional permits beyond what the state allows because New York City streets need to be regulated by New York City transportation officials.

“New York City has a right to ensure the safety of its streets – including by regulating autonomous vehicles,” City Hall spokesperson Michelle Schwartz recently told Streetsblog. “We will not hesitate to take action against companies that may cause harm to pedestrians, cyclists or other drivers.”

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