Monday, June 14, 2021

In a World of Self-Driving Cars and Public Transport, Pedestrians Are King

auto-leasing*In urban centers where the costs of living are high and the streets are crowded, many pedestrians are starting to wonder why would anyone want to own their own vehicle?

The average car buyer has to finance their vehicle and faces an average of $17,966 in auto debt, while an Uber, Lyft, or ride on public transportation only costs a few bucks.

But the U.S. has a car habit. Regardless of where you live, even in New York City, cars are everywhere. American industry once thrived on auto production, but now Detroit, the Motor City; Houston, the oil capital; and Los Angeles, a highway haven, have all encouraged walking and the use of public transportation. Could this finally be the end of the automobile as we know it?

The rise of health and eco-consciousness as well as the promise of new self-driving cars have changed the outlook of the American autoscape. Bikes and pedestrians are seen more commonly alongside the remaining cars. While self-driving cars have yet to make a mainstream sweep, they have been tested, and are anticipated to take ride share services by storm within the next decade.

But what happens to these pedestrians when the automated cars run rampant? With a driver behind the wheel it’s hard enough to avoid a collision with cyclists or walkers. When there’s no one on the brakes, what happens then?

According to Adam Millard-Ball, assistant professor of environmental studies at UC Santa Cruz, the outlook for urban pedestrians in the age of automated vehicles may be better than many anticipate.

“Pedestrians routinely play the game of chicken,” Millard-Ball wrote in a recent report titled ‘Pedestrians, Autonomous Vehicles, and Cities‘. This is nothing new. Since cars first hit the road, pedestrians have been playing a game of survival in order to avoid being hit.

Millard-Ball believes that since new autonomous vehicles will be designed to minimize risk, they will inherently become more cautious regarding pedestrians, giving way to a walker- and biker-dominated urban center.

This paradigm shift could be the biggest thing to happen to American traffic since automobiles became prevalent roughly one century ago.

Risks of impaired or distracted driving often cause more pedestrians to be careful on the roads, knowing that — most likely — the driver behind the wheels doesn’t want to hurt them.

The self-driving cars will be programmed to follow the rules of the road, including obeying stop signs, yields, speed limits, and of course, crosswalks. But by introducing safety features that account for stray pedestrians on any part of the road, pedestrians might begin to become more reckless, for lack of a better term.

When self-driving cars arrive, however, pedestrian domination will likely be commonplace, according to Millard-Ball.

How this pedestrian behavior will impact those who still drive their own cars, however, is yet to be determined.





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