Robot car, recognise this hand signal.

My friend Mikael (of course, he’s a friend to us all) has had his words shoehorned into an article instructing cyclists to ride and hand signal in predictable ways so that driverless cars can respond. What does that mean? That if we don’t move in our cities as Tesler or Google demand, that we deserve to be killed by their robots? I really hope engineers there at Google are teaching their robots to recognise this one:

Thanks Frank Gehry, I.M. Pei and Mies van der Rohe — although I don’t really thank you at all. With the exception of me, architects have been pawns of the car industry too. Here’s an old post if you care about history being repeated. It’s the streetcar conspiracy all over again, only this time the perpetrators are the makers of driverless cars.


  1. Colin says:

    Driverless cars will need to follow the road rules far more stringently than human drivers, and they won’t be tempted to bouts of road rage. They’ll need to be safe enough for cyclists regardless of recognising hand signals.
    So a cyclist could casually take the lane and ride a leisurely 15km/h and the driverless car will patiently follow. A pedestrian could do the same. The presence of a child on the footpath would necessitate the driverless car slowing enough that it could stop should the child suddenly dart out onto the road.
    Driverless cars will have a terrifically calming effect on the streets. And that may be their downfall – who will want one if it means sitting behind a 15 km/h cyclist for the whole trip?

    • Steven says:

      I hope you’re right. There are signs that you are.

    • Luke says:

      Colin, there’s an alternative theory that the better driverless cars are at stopping/slowing down for pedestrians and cyclists, the worse it will be. Here’s how it goes.
      Assume the system is really good, and your vision holds: “So a cyclist could casually take the lane and ride a leisurely 15km/h and the driverless car will patiently follow….”
      As you say, pedestrians could cross the street at any time, secure in the knowledge that the car will stop, and children will be safe. In fact, we could go back to playing football and cricket in the street. Obesity crisis solved, Australia might not go down to humiliating defeats against Pakistan etc etc. All good.
      But while the car “won’t be tempted to bouts of road rage,” the occupant will be reduced to apoplectic fury, as he constantly comes to a screeching halt for kids playing and old grannies crossing the road. Then when he gets going again, he’ll never to go faster than 10mph because Mikael will be dawdling along at 10mph, slowing periodically for women who catch his eye.
      Maybe the car occupant sees the error of his ways, and get a bike. Or maybe he (usually he) is a wealthy, self-important person who is in his own estimation for too important and busy to cycle with the plebs and hippies (sorry Steven). So he demands legislation that pedestrians and/or cyclists keep off the roads that are the rightful domain of Important, Busy And Serious People such as Himself.
      Remember it’s a crime to cross the road in the US. You have to do it at designated crossing places, *and* when the green man shows, even if the road’s clear. So restricting liberty in favour of cars is not novel.

  2. Paul says:

    So parents become murderers if their kids rush onto the road in front of a driverless car? If you develop something that doesn’t work in the real world then you go back to the drawing board not demand the world to change. Doh! Google should know better.

  3. Andrew K says:

    The real benefit of driverless cars is the fact that we won’t have to own a car anymore.
    Carsharing programs where the car drives itself to pick you up. This is the end-game for those who are developing this technology.
    Not owning our own car, means that we will also start to consider alternatives for shorter trips.
    It means that we won’t have to worry about space for parking.
    What will we do with all that excess road space I wonder?

    • Steven says:

      What will we do with the road space? Fill it with more driverless taxis to accommodate densification…I think that’s where you’re argument is ultimately heading. Singapore has 4000 people per square kilometre and growing and senior ministers there have said driverless taxis will be the answer to gridlock.

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