Thursday, June 25, 2015

Biking in a world of self-driving cars will be awesome

While I was biking home the other day, I had a thought: this ride would be so much safer if all these cars were Google cars. I think it’s fair to say that most bikers have had some sort of a run-in with a car at some point in their cycling lives, and the asymmetry of the situation makes it very dangerous for bikers. Thing is, we can (and should) try to raise bike awareness in drivers, but the fact is that bikes can often come out of nowhere and in places that drivers don’t expect, and it’s just hard for drivers to keep track of all these possibilities. Whether it’s “fair” or “right” or not is beside the point: when I’m biking around, I just assume every driver I meet is going to do something stupid. It’s not about being right, it’s about staying alive.

But with self-driving cars? All those sensors means that the car would be aware of bikers coming from all angles. I think this would result in a huge increase in biker safety. I think it would also greatly increase ridership. I know a lot of people who at least say they would ride around a lot more if it weren’t for their fear of getting hit by a car. It would be great to get all those people on the road.

Two further thoughts: self-driving car manufacturers, if you are reading this, please come up with some sort of idea for what to do about getting “doored” (when someone opens a door in the bike lane). Perhaps some sort of warning, like “vehicle approaching”? Not just bikes, actually–would be good to avoid cars getting doored (or taking off the door) as well.

Another thing I wonder about is whether bike couriers and other very aggressive bikers will take advantage of cautious and safe self-driving cars to completely disregard traffic rules. I myself would never do that :), but I could imagine it becoming a problem.

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