From ushering in an era of decreased car ownership, to narrowing streets and eliminating parking lots, autonomous vehicles promise to dramatically reshape our cities.
But after an Uber-operated self-driving vehicle struck and killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, who was crossing the street with her bike in Tempe, Arizona on March 18, 2018, there are more questions than ever about the safety of this technology, especially as these vehicles are being tested more frequently on public streets.
Some argue the safety record for self-driving cars isn’t proven, and that it’s unclear whether or not enough testing miles have been driven in real-life conditions. Other safety advocates go further, and say that driverless cars are introducing a new problem to cities, when cities should instead be focusing on improving transit and encouraging walking and biking instead.
Contentions aside, the autonomous revolution is already here, although some cities will see its impacts sooner than others. From Las Vegas, where a Navya self-driving minibus scoots slowly along a downtown street, to General Motors’ Cruise ride-hailing service in San Francisco with backup humans in the driver’s seat, to Waymo’s family-focused Chandler, Arizona–based pilot program that uses no human operators in its Chrysler Pacifica minivans at all, the country is accelerating towards a driverless future.
While the U.S. government has historically been confident in autonomous vehicles’ ability to end the epidemic of traffic deaths on our streets, there are plenty of concerns from opponents of self-driving cars that are making cities think twice before welcoming them to their streets.
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