Tuesday, 21 November 2017
Cycling UK’s main concern, as outlined in our submission to Parliament, is that if autonomous vehicles were to cause an injury or death to a cyclist, there is no means proposed to prosecute criminally any responsible party, whether that is the developers of the dangerous software, or someone who has hacked the system.
With over 220,000 road traffic injuries and deaths per year, nearly all thanks to human error, gallons of ink have been spilled arguing that the sooner we can hand over control to a safe, autonomous system, the better.
However, the day on which the last human driver relinquishes control of a tonne of high powered metal is likely to be decades away, despite the Transport Minister’s optimism, disputed by other experts, that driverless cars could be on our roads by 2021. Instead, we face years of continued carnage on the roads, and the interim period may even get worse, as drivers become less and less attentive, handing over more and more control to immature technology that may be unable to cope with critical emergency situations.
Risks to cyclists and pedestrians
Autonomous vehicles will initially be best placed to deal with the roads that are already the safest: motorways and dual carriageways…they are least equipped to deal with those that are riskiest – the urban streets used by pedestrians and cyclists.
Chris Peck, Cycling UK Consultant
Autonomous vehicles will initially be best placed to deal with the roads that are already the safest: motorways and dual carriageways, where they will encounter limited vehicle types, and those vehicles tend to behave consistently. They are least equipped to deal with those that are riskiest – the urban streets used by pedestrians and cyclists. The risk is that partial automation will lower the barriers to car use, making people ever more reliant on cars as their primary transport. By simplifying the driving task right up until the point at which drivers have to resume control in the most challenging locations, there is the risk their skills may be blunted by not having to concentrate.