12 votes

Automated vehicles will make our streets worse

53 comments

  1. [19]
    aphoenix
    (edited )
    Link
    Well, yes, I guess it turns out that if everyone is an asshole, like the author, then society crumbles. Who knew? Oh, literally everyone? Sorry, right. While there are problems with self-driving...

    I have to walk across a nasty stroad every time I go downtown. Why would I wait my turn to cross in minus-20-degree weather, with the wind whipping at my face, when all I need to do is step out and traffic comes to a complete stop? I wouldn’t.

    Well, yes, I guess it turns out that if everyone is an asshole, like the author, then society crumbles. Who knew? Oh, literally everyone? Sorry, right.

    While there are problems with self-driving cars, I think that the authors view is not correct, nor do I believe that he actually thinks that we'll construct fences along street-road hybrids to prevent people from crossing, or prosecute jaywalking using car cameras. These are all strange ideas taken to unreasonable end points. I think it's a lot more likely that if we have an abundance of self-driving automobiles, we will also find that road reworks are required over time, and alternate ways of mass transit will also become more palatable. If self-driving cars can be taught to prefer arterial roads instead of residential streets - and maybe also the "stroads" that the author talks about as well - then we can minimize traffic in foot-friendly areas, and the jaywalking concern should be relatively minimal.

    Long story short, no, people are not just going to en masse blindly step out into traffic and trust computers to save them.

    Edit: not that the article itself isn't interesting - I just think it's a really bad argument with unsupportable points. His overall ideas about stroads and city planning in general are good. However, I don't think that anyone thinks that the only thing we need is self-driving cars, and I don't think anyone thinks that self-driving cars will solve every single problem. Self-driving cars just change the problem set, and make it a potentially better problem to solve.

    I was going to start talking about urban consolidation and planning (Charles Marohn is a noted urban consolidation supporter) and the sustainability of urban consolidation and why someone who supports urban consolidation might not support self-driving cars, but... perhaps that's a whole different article. I just think that he's making some unreasonable conclusions from some fairly reasonable premises.

    19 votes
    1. [16]
      hungariantoast
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Then I guess I am an asshole, because I already walk out in front of cars and expect them to stop for me. To be fair, where I live the roads are not quite as "stroady" as the common depiction, but...

      Well, yes, I guess it turns out that if everyone is an asshole, like the author, then society crumbles. Who knew? Oh, literally everyone? Sorry, right.

      Then I guess I am an asshole, because I already walk out in front of cars and expect them to stop for me. To be fair, where I live the roads are not quite as "stroady" as the common depiction, but they're certainly not streets.

      And you know what's great? All the other people walking around here do the same thing. There is this collective attitude that the person in the car never has the right of way when "pedestrians" are involved. They will stop. They will wait.

      This attitude has even been extended into the infrastructure itself. I guess assholes like me have been doing their thing for so long, at some point the city decided to install on-demand red lights along certain roads, that are only triggered when a pedestrian pushes a button. These lights activate quickly, bring traffic to a stop, and give plenty of time for pedestrians to cross. All at the expense of cars.

      That's the way it should be. So much space has been stolen from us to facilitate the operation of automobiles, and for what? So that they can endanger us every time we want to travel without one, and indebt the communities we live in to ensure their infrastructure is kept? No thanks.

      So you bet your ass that if I can, even more confidently than now, expect an automated vehicle to stop on my command, I will take advantage of that at every single opportunity, because cars are awful, and the only reasonable future is one where they are marginalized.

      I cannot understand how someone, not in a car, can suffer the experience of having to share a street with people who are in cars, and think "yes, the future is clearly this, except then the cars will drive themselves".

      No. The future is no cars.

      10 votes
      1. [15]
        aphoenix
        Link Parent
        With all due respect, I sincerely doubt that you walk in front of cars going 60kph. If you do just walk out into traffic, again with all due respect, you are a fool. This is why we teach kids...

        With all due respect, I sincerely doubt that you walk in front of cars going 60kph. If you do just walk out into traffic, again with all due respect, you are a fool. This is why we teach kids things like "look both ways" and "don't cross if there is a car coming". If you do it frequently enough, you are likely to get hit by a car. Pedestrians do have the right of way, but that doesn't mean you just step out into the road at any point and expect everyone to stop. There is actually physics involved that prevents this.

        And claiming that lights are similar to the phenomenon of just stepping out into the road is not particularly fair, in my opinion. That's infrastructure that is designed to allow crossings to happen.

        However, I do agree that the future should and will have far fewer cars.

        13 votes
        1. [14]
          hungariantoast
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          60kph is less than 40mph. Here in Texas that's slow as fuck. I already admitted I'm an asshole, I have no problem admitting I'm a fool too 😉 Yet this foolish behavior has been shown to produce...

          60kph is less than 40mph. Here in Texas that's slow as fuck. I already admitted I'm an asshole, I have no problem admitting I'm a fool too 😉

          Yet this foolish behavior has been shown to produce results...

          And claiming that lights are similar to the phenomenon of just stepping out into the road is not particularly fair, in my opinion. That's infrastructure that is designed to allow crossings to happen.

          That infrastructure was designed because the crossings were already happening. They put those lights up because those spots are very convenient places for people to cross the road, and they were already crossing without the lights. They're literally putting up more of these lights around the city as I write this comment.

          Honestly though, do you think I'm just running out into the road like some stupid squirrel? I mean, I know I've been very "hurr durr fuck cars" here, but it's not like there isn't a method to this madness.

          I understand the danger. The danger is obvious. The idea of "right of way doesn't matter when you're dead" was burned into my head long ago when I got my first motorcycle. Yet here I am, alive, and new "pedestrian-friendly" infrastructure is being built in my city because, despite the physics, the people around here collectively agree that cars can go fuck themselves.

          But do you know what the best part is? The best part is that, after pedestrians have been reclaiming their right of way from cars for long enough... the drivers start to get the memo. People walking out in front of them becomes the norm. The behavior of the drivers starts to change, to reflect the new reality, and that makes things even safer for pedestrians. The author talks about this in the article:

          In Cambridge, I witnessed many people jaywalking. In fact, I saw Cornel West jaywalk, meandering across a street midblock. It was very common. People, particularly students, would step out into traffic and cross wherever it was most convenient for them.

          And, magically, the human-powered cars stopped. The sheer volume of people out walking, along with the tight design of the streets, seemed to make drivers more cautious and responsive to the random chance someone on foot would cross. And the people responded to this opportunity by taking advantage of it. I witnessed random groups induced to cross wherever and whenever they had a need. It was a very nice environment.

          Frankly, using "physics" as an excuse for why we should yield to cars has been such a destructive idea. It's not scientifically wrong, but that doesn't mean we should just blindly accept the implications, which have been so, as I said, destructive, for urban centers across all of North America.

          My entire point of walking out in front of cars, and I'm sorry I just didn't come out and say this, is that if we simply change the attitudes of the relationship between cars and pedestrians, we will begin to change our environment to reflect those new values. For so long we have been building our environments for cars, but that has to stop, and changing our attitude towards this relationship, even if it means walking out in front of cars and expecting them to stop, is one step of getting there.

          Something something praxis something.

          8 votes
          1. [13]
            aphoenix
            Link Parent
            So I might be doing some interpretation, but from what I've read here, I think it's clear that you're not just walking out in front of cars on high-traffic roads or "stroads". I think you're...

            So I might be doing some interpretation, but from what I've read here, I think it's clear that you're not just walking out in front of cars on high-traffic roads or "stroads". I think you're talking about reconfiguring urban areas to be more pedestrian-centric. I'm 100% in favour of urban areas being pedestrian usable, first and foremost, and for cars second, but that's distinct from claiming "I walk in front of cars and expect them to stop all the time".

            Honestly though, do you think I'm just running out into the road like some stupid squirrel?

            From what you wrote, you kind of indicated that you were doing so, and that everyone else was doing so as well. I don't want to pick apart the words that you chose to use, but in the context of the article as it was presented, and what you said, yes, it 100% sounded like you were claiming you would walk out into traffic and expect it to stop.

            Again, I completely agree that urban centers should be predominantly places for pedestrians and unpowered vehicles. My city has made a switch to our downtown core that has made it much more pedestrian friendly, and I think that all cities probably should. But this switch isn't antithetical to the idea of self-driving cars; both are important for improving traffic, and improving urban life. I'm not quite sure why the original author (and potentially yourself) thinks that anyone is putting all their bets on self-driving cars to fix every single problem. Reducing traffic over time has dozens if not hundreds of facets to consider, and only one of them is self-driving.

            9 votes
            1. [5]
              hungariantoast
              Link Parent
              My comment about the squirrel, and again, I'm sorry I didn't just go ahead and explain this, is that I don't dart out in front of cars and expect the drivers to slam on their brakes. However, I...

              My comment about the squirrel, and again, I'm sorry I didn't just go ahead and explain this, is that I don't dart out in front of cars and expect the drivers to slam on their brakes.

              However, I absolutely do cross roads around here with the expectation that cars will slow down and stop if necessary to avoid hitting me. I do it because everyone does it, and by everyone doing it, the city has started to change, to give back the "emphasis of infrastructure" to people not in cars.

              Of course, that's still a work in progress. There are some parts of the city where the stroads are truly stroady. I guess those parts of the city will just have to wither, die, be torn up, and eventually rebuilt? As they eventually stop being economic centers and become just... places people don't want to go, like shopping malls?

              But for now they remain impenetrable for pedestrians. Thankfully I don't live near those areas and never have to visit them.

              Having moved here from Houston, the difference is night and day. I don't have to own a car. It's quite liberating. It'd take a lot of money or a really good reason to get me to ever move back to a place that isn't as friendly to people walking or biking as this place is.

              2 votes
              1. [4]
                aphoenix
                Link Parent
                Deep down, I just detest that polarization that seems to need to happen in all discussions. Even within this thread it has occurred. You claimed "Then I guess I am an asshole, because I already...

                Deep down, I just detest that polarization that seems to need to happen in all discussions. Even within this thread it has occurred. You claimed "Then I guess I am an asshole, because I already walk out in front of cars and expect them to stop for me." and then within a few posts walked it back to "Honestly though, do you think I'm just running out into the road like some stupid squirrel?". I obviously understand that you weren't doing that - that's why I kind of low-key called bullshit on it - but I do claim that you emotionally strengthened your argument and misrepresented what you were actually doing. Why not just claim what the accurate thing is? "I signal my intent to cross by stepping off the curb, and cars will frequently allow me to do so." That's pretty supportable - we all do that - but it is wildly different from what Marohn is claiming will happen in the article - people will just walk out into traffic and AV will make traffic stop - and you claimed that you were already doing.

                I disagree with what Marohn claims is a logical conclusion - that self-driving cars mean people will walk into traffic because traffic will stop. People aren't going to do this, and you don't do it. You signal intent to cross, and traffic allows for that. That's not what Marohn is talking about. He means people will just step out like squirrels and they'll be able to bring traffic to a halt. And he claims that if that happens there'll be some kind of dystopia that occurs as a result.

                What's actually going to happen is that infrastructure is going to change and adapt over time; city planning is already better than it was even 10 years ago, and immeasurably better than in ancient cities, and as we learn more about how to structure cities, we build them differently. As we learn more about self-driving cars, city planners are going to learn more about how to design infrastructure for them; things will change and adapt. And I know that Marohn knows this because he is a civil engineer so it's doubly annoying to see "self-driving cars lead to dystopian nightmare" as an article that actually gets written, because he's just writing controversial, polarized things because it'll draw people in. And it did.

                11 votes
                1. [3]
                  hungariantoast
                  (edited )
                  Link Parent
                  If there is a car approaching a crossing, and they would have to slam on their breaks to avoid hitting me if I cross in front of them, I will not cross. I figured that would be obvious. This is...

                  If there is a car approaching a crossing, and they would have to slam on their breaks to avoid hitting me if I cross in front of them, I will not cross. I figured that would be obvious.

                  This is what I am talking about when I mention squirrels, because squirrels are suicidal lunatics who dart out in front of cars and zig-zag across the road until they make up their mind which side they want to be on.

                  If there is a car approaching a crossing, and they will have to slow down or even stop to avoid hitting me if I cross in front of them, but they have enough distance between me and them to do that without slamming on their brakes, I will cross and expect, not signal, not ask, expect them to not hit me.

                  So no, the author of the article isn't claiming that people are going to dart out in front of traffic like squirrels. The author is claiming that people, having much more faith in automated vehicles to not hit them, will do what I and pretty much every other pedestrian in my city already do: walk out in front of the cars and expect them to stop.

                  Let me know if you have any more questions

                  1. [2]
                    aphoenix
                    Link Parent
                    So I'm trying to figure out where there's some miscommunication here. I'm going to over-explain because I think that we're maybe just not quite talking about the same issue? I read the article, in...

                    So I'm trying to figure out where there's some miscommunication here. I'm going to over-explain because I think that we're maybe just not quite talking about the same issue?

                    I read the article, in full, above. In that article, there's a considerable amount of time in that article put towards the idea that people are going to cross stroads, at all points, even though it is devastating to traffic. That is the premise of the article, and the lens through which this conversation occurred. This will require, when it happens, for cars to have to slam on their breaks to avoid hitting people; it is necessary for the purpose of the article's author. Extra information: it is this act of slamming on breaks - which, with AV, would be done together, avoiding an accident - which is detrimental to traffic, and dangerous for people to do.

                    It is this act - walking out onto stroads, with nary a thought for the physics of stopping traffic, trusting the computers to save them - that is the point that I addressed.

                    When you say

                    So no, the author of the article isn't claiming that people are going to dart out in front of traffic like squirrels.

                    I would say that you have missed the point of the article. The author is claiming that people are going to dart through traffic like squirrels. In fact, this whole section is almost explicitly stating that:

                    When perfected, what will an automated vehicle do on that nasty stroad in your community, the one where the cars today drive too fast and the drivers are too oblivious, where nobody sane would dare to cross? When all cars are AV, what happens when someone crosses midblock?

                    The obvious answer is that the vehicles stop and allow the person to cross. They don’t run that person down. They don’t kill them. The automated vehicle will be programmed to always stop when someone steps out into traffic. As a society, we would not have it any other way.

                    So, knowing this, who is ever going to stop and wait at another traffic signal? What person on foot, in their right mind, would wait for a gap to open so they can cross without impacting the flow of traffic? Nobody.

                    It is claiming that on high traffic, high volume, too-fast roads, people are going to walk out mid-block with the expectation that cars are not going to hit them, and that this is going to be detrimental to traffic, and that as a result, we will have fences on roads. That is explicitly stated in the article.

                    I understand that in traffic calmed areas, streets, downtown areas that are pedestrian friendly, or other places where traffic is slow, that people will walk out and cross the street. This is explicitly stated in the article (and I did not say that people who did that were assholes), and I do it too. What I don't do, and what people won't do, is walk out to a road where people typically go 60 - 80 kmh (or more) and walk out onto the busy road because AI will stop cars from hitting them. Because the author actually is claiming that people will do that - run out into the stroad like squirrels - because they'll be safe to do so, and we will need to put up fences to stop people from doing so.

                    10 votes
                    1. hungariantoast
                      (edited )
                      Link Parent
                      Perhaps you should just email Marohn and ask for clarification whether he expects people to dart out in front of automated vehicles like suicidal squirrels because the cars will be designed to not...

                      The author is claiming that people are going to dart through traffic like squirrels

                      Perhaps you should just email Marohn and ask for clarification whether he expects people to dart out in front of automated vehicles like suicidal squirrels because the cars will be designed to not murder human beings that move in front of them. My guess is that he will say no.

                      1 vote
            2. [7]
              streblo
              Link Parent
              This is a good discussion so I don't want to derail it but just a quick note: My impression from the article is a 'stroad' represents AV proponents having their cake and eating it. It's a...

              This is a good discussion so I don't want to derail it but just a quick note:

              I think it's clear that you're not just walking out in front of cars on high-traffic roads or "stroads".

              My impression from the article is a 'stroad' represents AV proponents having their cake and eating it. It's a high-value, heavily foot-trafficked metropolitan street with, thanks to robot drivers, decent traffic throughput. This, according to the author, is a fallacy that won't exist.

              Basically, if a neighborhood is pedestrian friendly, it will have shit traffic flow. If it has shit traffic flow, who's going to be investing in AVs over public transport for intra-city trips?

              1 vote
              1. [6]
                aphoenix
                Link Parent
                Here's a wikipedia link on it. A summary: years ago, the author of this article coined the phrase (I believe on the same blog you linked, just 10 years earlier). Basically, a Stroad is a...

                Here's a wikipedia link on it. A summary: years ago, the author of this article coined the phrase (I believe on the same blog you linked, just 10 years earlier). Basically, a Stroad is a streety-road or roady-street, but it's not tied to the concept of self-driving cars. The author strongly believes that they do exist right now, and has written a lot about them and how to avoid them.

                Here's a video the author made about it: https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2018/3/1/whats-a-stroad-and-why-does-it-matter

                5 votes
                1. [5]
                  streblo
                  Link Parent
                  Well TIL. Thanks, had no idea about that. Should have known better than to assume!

                  Well TIL. Thanks, had no idea about that. Should have known better than to assume!

                  1 vote
                  1. [4]
                    aphoenix
                    Link Parent
                    I actually ended up reading a bunch of Marohn's posts on Strong Towns because I live close to what I think of as a quintessential "stroad" - it's an arterial road that for about 1.5km shrinks to...

                    I actually ended up reading a bunch of Marohn's posts on Strong Towns because I live close to what I think of as a quintessential "stroad" - it's an arterial road that for about 1.5km shrinks to two lanes and is very residential, but still functions as an arterial road, with people routinely travelling 80kmh on it. He does raise a lot of interesting points, and I think that the underlying things that he says are important to read and understand, but he does this thing that really irks me is that he polarizes his points as a way to underscore that they're important, because polarization is incensing and will get people to share.

                    This article is saying the following:

                    Automated vehicles will be fantastic on the open roads when we’re trying to move people or materials at speed over distance. For local travel, walking should always be the priority followed by biking, transit, and then slow-moving individual vehicles. This is the necessary approach for building a strong town.

                    To support that he says that we'll use autonomous cars' cameras to enforce jaywalking rules and build fences on roads to prevent people from crossing (which we do already for highways, but I guess that doesn't count?), and that people will cross stroads without even looking because why wouldn't they, and none of the underlying points that he used are true. I also skipped over his jibe at AV enthusiasts and how they're achieving maximum cognitive dissonance, even though no true AV enthusiast thinks that we should only look at AV and not infrastructure as a whole... overall this was a really frustrating article to read, mostly because I know that Marohn knows better, and he's just used the arguments that he has because they're emotionally appealing.

                    Augh! Long story short - Marohn's a great civil engineer, AV isn't a magic bullet to fix traffic, infrastructure is important, AV probably won't lead to some dystopian nightmare.

                    4 votes
                    1. [2]
                      streblo
                      Link Parent
                      I hear you, the article could certainly be less inflammatory. Which makes me wonder: if it wasn't so polarizing would we even be having this discussion right now? :P

                      He does raise a lot of interesting points, and I think that the underlying things that he says are important to read and understand, but he does this thing that really irks me is that he polarizes his points as a way to underscore that they're important, because polarization is incensing and will get people to share.

                      I hear you, the article could certainly be less inflammatory.

                      Which makes me wonder: if it wasn't so polarizing would we even be having this discussion right now? :P

                      1 vote
                      1. aphoenix
                        Link Parent
                        Maybe we wouldn't be having this exact conversation and that's part of why I hate pervasive polarization. That's a problem I don't know how to fix, but is still one that I hate. Even 5 years ago,...

                        Maybe we wouldn't be having this exact conversation and that's part of why I hate pervasive polarization. That's a problem I don't know how to fix, but is still one that I hate.

                        Even 5 years ago, it seems like we could post things that were interesting and just discuss them, but now if it doesn't elicit an emotional, immediate, and strong reaction, it doesn't get attention in most places. The fact that you have to "up the ante" is something I detest.

                        However, maybe we would still be having a conversation about it. There are lots of information sources and educators that are not polarizing their content. In this topic, one that comes to mind is Grady with Practical Engineering who covers a variety of topics, but doesn't result to any kind of polarization of his content. He's factual and friendly.

                        ... and when his videos get posted here, they get 2 or 3 comments, not whole chains of them like this. But I don't know how to fix that. Agreement rarely begets views.

                        5 votes
                    2. meff
                      (edited )
                      Link Parent
                      Sadly there are AV enthusiasts who believe this. I've talked to a number of AV fans who think that there's no point spending money on traffic calming measures or adding extra lights because "we'll...

                      even though no true AV enthusiast thinks that we should only look at AV and not infrastructure as a whole

                      Sadly there are AV enthusiasts who believe this. I've talked to a number of AV fans who think that there's no point spending money on traffic calming measures or adding extra lights because "we'll all be in self-driving cars anyway in 15 years". It's hard for Americans to think of traffic and streets as a multi-faceted, nuanced issue, because in the last 60 years it's been designed for only one mode of transport: the car. So Americans used to only think of their streets in terms of "how fast can I drive on them", "how visible is the signage from my car", and "how little attention do I need to spend on the road in front of me". With awareness from folks like Marohn (ignoring his polarizing style for a moment), the discourse around this is changing in the US. This all maybe (probably) is different outside of the US.

                      Otherwise, I largely agree with your comment.

                      1 vote
    2. [2]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. aphoenix
        Link Parent
        I find that to be a very valid concern, but my hope is that once people get into the not-driving, it will open people up to more mass-transit options. Ideally, we would become a society where...

        a worry of mine is that self-driving cars will further sway people away from mass transit and dense developments.

        I find that to be a very valid concern, but my hope is that once people get into the not-driving, it will open people up to more mass-transit options. Ideally, we would become a society where high-speed maglev trains are the norm for any particular distance and then a bus / subway / light rail for most local, with small autonomous cars for last-mile. That would be pretty convenient.

        1 vote
    3. Parliament
      Link Parent
      The people behind the wheel of self-driving cars today already trust computers to save them.

      Long story short, no, people are not just going to en masse blindly step out into traffic and trust computers to save them.

      The people behind the wheel of self-driving cars today already trust computers to save them.

      2 votes
  2. [3]
    skybrian
    Link
    This argument seems speculative. I don't think we really know how much "jaywalking" will increase or how much cities will do to prevent it? That depends on politics. There are certain high-traffic...

    This argument seems speculative. I don't think we really know how much "jaywalking" will increase or how much cities will do to prevent it? That depends on politics.

    There are certain high-traffic places where it is enough of a problem that someone puts up a railing to discourage people from crossing right there. There is typically a sign on the railing directing people to the nearest crosswalk. It doesn't seem like that big a deal.

    8 votes
    1. [2]
      streblo
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      If I step out onto a street where cars are going 50km/h now, there's a reasonable chance most would stop in time but an inattentive or slow-to-react driver could kill me. If a stop was all but...

      If I step out onto a street where cars are going 50km/h now, there's a reasonable chance most would stop in time but an inattentive or slow-to-react driver could kill me. If a stop was all but guaranteed does that change the equation? Enough to affect traffic patterns? People are more than happy to indirectly mildly inconvenience people already -- e.g. holding the subway door for a friend or holding up traffic trying to turn left on a double solid. This feels to me like a similar situation but worse because the opportunity for it to be widespread.

      It's definitely speculative but I think if we extrapolate basic human behaviour there is a basic nugget of truth there. That's not to say it can't be mitigated by enforcement but is that desirable?

      2 votes
      1. skybrian
        Link Parent
        It’s somewhat plausible but requires a lot of confidence in the system. Also, it’s speculating about the far future. There are going to be inattentive and aggressive drivers on the streets for a...

        It’s somewhat plausible but requires a lot of confidence in the system. Also, it’s speculating about the far future. There are going to be inattentive and aggressive drivers on the streets for a long time, even if driverless cars do start to become popular.

        I expect parents to keep teaching their kids to look both ways before crossing the street. That’s unlikely to change for quite a while.

        5 votes
  3. [9]
    streblo
    Link
    This is an interesting article I saw in a HN comment. The argument is pretty good: ...

    This is an interesting article I saw in a HN comment.

    The argument is pretty good:

    So, here’s the Cambridge Test: When perfected, what will an automated vehicle do on that nasty stroad in your community, the one where the cars today drive too fast and the drivers are too oblivious, where nobody sane would dare to cross? When all cars are AV, what happens when someone crosses midblock?

    The obvious answer is that the vehicles stop and allow the person to cross. They don’t run that person down. They don’t kill them. The automated vehicle will be programmed to always stop when someone steps out into traffic. As a society, we would not have it any other way.

    So, knowing this, who is ever going to stop and wait at another traffic signal? What person on foot, in their right mind, would wait for a gap to open so they can cross without impacting the flow of traffic? Nobody.

    ...

    Despite the fact that in this country’s best urban spaces, the ones that are thriving, jaywalking is rarely enforced (at least, rarely enforced except as a law enforcement pretext, which is a different matter entirely), we’ll make stopping jaywalking a national priority. With cameras on every vehicle, and the motivation of frustrated drivers to use them, enforcement will not be a problem.

    And if it is, we’ll do what I posited years ago that we would do: we’ll erect human fences along the edge of the streets to keep people out. The people….excuse me, I need to use the correct language in this context….the "pedestrians" will be allowed to cross only at designated pedestrian crossings.

    5 votes
    1. [2]
      an_angry_tiger
      Link Parent
      Someone who can't be 100% sure if its a self driving car or an angry person behind the wheel and doesn't want to risk the chance of getting slammed by a car either way? I don't really see...

      So, knowing this, who is ever going to stop and wait at another traffic signal? What person on foot, in their right mind, would wait for a gap to open so they can cross without impacting the flow of traffic? Nobody.

      Someone who can't be 100% sure if its a self driving car or an angry person behind the wheel and doesn't want to risk the chance of getting slammed by a car either way? I don't really see myself.......jumping in front of cars because I think they're going to stop any time soon.

      11 votes
      1. streblo
        Link Parent
        I do think there is an oft-stated dream of an entirely AV city and smart traffic networks to speed up congestion. I think this thought experiment takes place in such a city.

        I do think there is an oft-stated dream of an entirely AV city and smart traffic networks to speed up congestion. I think this thought experiment takes place in such a city.

        2 votes
    2. [4]
      vektor
      Link Parent
      It's certainly an interesting aspect of how AVs will interact with other traffic. But as for the entire article... I mean, you might've read my lengthy post re:Veritasium the other day. Apparently...

      It's certainly an interesting aspect of how AVs will interact with other traffic.

      But as for the entire article... I mean, you might've read my lengthy post re:Veritasium the other day. Apparently I'm dangerously delusional. And that considering the author assumes I hold a position I do not (stroads are not why I advocate for AVs, in fact I had never heard the term), while not at all engaging with the positions I do hold. What a strawman.

      It's an interesting thought, but a shitty argument. I'm sorry I have not the patience right now to engage beyond a surface-level reading.

      Again: Very interesting aspect of AV interactions, thanks for bringing it up.

      5 votes
      1. [3]
        streblo
        Link Parent
        I'm not sure you've read it correctly. I don't think this article is an argument for or against AVs directly. It's just pointing out they could make traffic even worse as opposed to better and...

        And that considering the author assumes I hold a position I do not (stroads are not why I advocate for AVs, in fact I had never heard the term), while not at all engaging with the positions I do hold. What a strawman.

        I'm not sure you've read it correctly. I don't think this article is an argument for or against AVs directly. It's just pointing out they could make traffic even worse as opposed to better and that if we just place blind faith in their ability to transform our cities we could end up with even less livable cities.

        A 'stroad' in this case is a street (pedestrian-driven with lots of direct shop access) blended with a road (high throughput of vehicles). I have never heard the term either but I have heard lots of AV proponents suggest that entirely autonomous traffic will always result in less congestion and higher throughput. I think the author is just merely pointing out we are not factoring the human element into that equation.

        1 vote
        1. vektor
          Link Parent
          My concerns regarding tone and strawmanning mostly result from this section: That's not strictly calling anyone who defends AVs "dangerously delusional", but it damn sure sets you up to interpret...

          My concerns regarding tone and strawmanning mostly result from this section:

          It’s been fascinating to me to watch the reaction of many in our audience when I share information about automated vehicles in our social media feeds. No matter what the critique (the latest being commentary on the woman killed by an automated Uber), there is no end to the defense of automation. There is a special sub-species of tech-adherents that is particularly notable. I’ve set up a Venn diagram to describe them. On one hand, they believe in the entire narrative of evil automobile companies conspiring to destroy mass transit, steal streets from people, and turn our cities into auto-dominated realms. On the other hand, they believe that tech-enlightened automobile companies will use AV to promote mass transit, give streets back to people, and make our cities the utopias we always dreamed they should be. I can be as guilty as anyone of being an idealistic dreamer at times, but I find people in that “max cognitive dissonance” zone to be dangerously delusional.

          That's not strictly calling anyone who defends AVs "dangerously delusional", but it damn sure sets you up to interpret it that way.

          4 votes
        2. vord
          Link Parent
          Traffic becomes worse -> People stop driving in cities and use public transport, walk, or use bikes instead. Mission accomplished!

          It's just pointing out they could make traffic even worse as opposed to better and that if we just place blind faith in their ability to transform our cities we could end up with even less livable cities.

          Traffic becomes worse -> People stop driving in cities and use public transport, walk, or use bikes instead.

          Mission accomplished!

          1 vote
    3. [2]
      teaearlgraycold
      Link Parent
      Once we've mandated that certain roads only have autonomous vehicles then we can eliminate traffic stops entirely.

      So, knowing this, who is ever going to stop and wait at another traffic signal? What person on foot, in their right mind, would wait for a gap to open so they can cross without impacting the flow of traffic? Nobody.

      Once we've mandated that certain roads only have autonomous vehicles then we can eliminate traffic stops entirely.

      1 vote
      1. streblo
        Link Parent
        Good point, there's certainly an argument that our cities would be completely redesigned for walkability with pedestrian overpasses everywhere or something. But that would involve a very different...

        Once we've mandated that certain roads only have autonomous vehicles then we can eliminate traffic stops entirely.

        Good point, there's certainly an argument that our cities would be completely redesigned for walkability with pedestrian overpasses everywhere or something. But that would involve a very different looking city with more 'roads' and less 'streets', as the article describes them.

  4. rosco
    Link
    This may be a hot button in this thread, but I would argue the main issue with automated cars is that they perpetuate and even exacerbate a system already prioritizes automobiles in an unfair and...

    This may be a hot button in this thread, but I would argue the main issue with automated cars is that they perpetuate and even exacerbate a system already prioritizes automobiles in an unfair and anti-human way. The issues folks are bringing up (that it will increase jay-walking, that we can use the cameras to ticket offenders, that we can use fencing to stop people from jay walking...) miss the underlying issue. We are pursuing a transportation system that is anti-engagement and willfully solitary. The spaces that people will be highly motivated to 'jaywalk' will have been poorly designed and should have a better use balance set forward by city planners and engineers.

    4 votes
  5. babypuncher
    Link
    The author presents an interesting hypothesis, but I'm not a fan of how they state it as a fact rather than something that needs to be investigated and tested.

    The author presents an interesting hypothesis, but I'm not a fan of how they state it as a fact rather than something that needs to be investigated and tested.

    3 votes
  6. [18]
    Thrabalen
    Link
    Easy fix to a non-existent problem: All driverless cars are going to have front-facing vehicle cams (if they can't see, they can't drive.) Any time a vehicle has to make a stop in a situation when...

    Easy fix to a non-existent problem: All driverless cars are going to have front-facing vehicle cams (if they can't see, they can't drive.) Any time a vehicle has to make a stop in a situation when it shouldn't have to (such as in the middle of a block), it takes what is basically a red light cam shot. There it is, plain as day, the pedestrian that jaywalked and caused a potential traffic snarl. Every car in viewing distance also snaps a shot. Now you have corroborating evidence.

    3 votes
    1. [17]
      spctrvl
      Link Parent
      That's not the fix, that's the exact problem the author was writing about: self driving cars further ejecting pedestrians and other non-car traffic from streets already massively hostile to their...

      That's not the fix, that's the exact problem the author was writing about: self driving cars further ejecting pedestrians and other non-car traffic from streets already massively hostile to their existence, when it's become clear we need to go in the opposite direction for the health of our cities and our planet.

      9 votes
      1. [16]
        Thrabalen
        Link Parent
        I see nothing soul-destroying and unhealthy about the concept of "you go, then I go." It's basic courtesy. Crossing at the corner is a concept that we're all familiar with, I see no reason it...

        I see nothing soul-destroying and unhealthy about the concept of "you go, then I go." It's basic courtesy. Crossing at the corner is a concept that we're all familiar with, I see no reason it shouldn't continue. You don't prohibit jaywalking out of courtesy to a driver, you do it so the system of moving people (on foot and in cars) continues in a timely fashion.

        Even before cars, people had to have the good sense not to step in front of a galloping horse.

        2 votes
        1. [3]
          spctrvl
          Link Parent
          I think other commenters in this thread covered most of what I'd want to, but I did want to bring up that the idea of jaywalking was basically created and pushed by early auto clubs and companies...

          I think other commenters in this thread covered most of what I'd want to, but I did want to bring up that the idea of jaywalking was basically created and pushed by early auto clubs and companies in order to shift the onus on to pedestrians for how dangerous cars are.

          4 votes
          1. [2]
            Thrabalen
            Link Parent
            Of that I have no doubt... then again, a pedestrian is far more likely to just step into traffic than a driver is to swerve onto the sidewalk!

            Of that I have no doubt... then again, a pedestrian is far more likely to just step into traffic than a driver is to swerve onto the sidewalk!

            2 votes
            1. spctrvl
              Link Parent
              Nowadays probably, because they don't need to, but considering streets used to be primarily the remit of pedestrians before being invaded and occupied by the car, you could consider most city...

              Nowadays probably, because they don't need to, but considering streets used to be primarily the remit of pedestrians before being invaded and occupied by the car, you could consider most city driving as analogous to driving on sidewalks. Today's sidewalks are like a rump state after 90% of their territory was ceded to outside powers.

              1 vote
        2. [12]
          rosco
          Link Parent
          I think the idea they are talking about is that we're creating a car centric experience. Everything is optimized for cars in this scenario. Yes, people have the good sense not to set in front of...

          I think the idea they are talking about is that we're creating a car centric experience. Everything is optimized for cars in this scenario. Yes, people have the good sense not to set in front of cars, but what is the alternative motivation?

          I think the main point the author of the Stroads videos and articles is that we've created a world that incentivizes and prioritizes cars. When you bike, walk, or use any other form of transportation you are visitor in the home of the automobile. If we were to functionally rethink transportation for energy consumption, human health, or happiness we would prioritize other modes of transit. Automated cars are just one more anchor securing the dominance of cars in the public sector.

          So we may have a "you go, then I go" system, but it prioritizes one form of transit more than any other and that to me doesn't feel like basic courtesy.

          1 vote
          1. [11]
            Thrabalen
            Link Parent
            What's the alternative, then? Because until we get aircars, we're all sharing the same 2D plane, and it seems honestly silly to prioritize pedestrians. Even putting aside buses (which means that...

            What's the alternative, then? Because until we get aircars, we're all sharing the same 2D plane, and it seems honestly silly to prioritize pedestrians. Even putting aside buses (which means that one person holding up the bus disrupts potentially dozens of people), it's simple math: the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.

            Motor vehicles enable millions of people to get where they're going relatively quickly. Walking is great exercise, but it is not (nor should it be) the main mode of transit, at least until we figure out the modern world without occupations and major commerce. Not everyone can be in walking distance of their workplace, barring the idea of company towns coming back into fashion.

            2 votes
            1. rosco
              Link Parent
              I think the necessity of automotive transportation is by design. We built our transportation around the car. This Climate Town episode goes into it in a very digestible way. If you take anything...

              I think the necessity of automotive transportation is by design. We built our transportation around the car. This Climate Town episode goes into it in a very digestible way. If you take anything away from this oversized post, watch that video. None of the decisions around our current transportation system were to make it effective or efficient for us, it's to sell cars. Imagine if we invested the insane amount of money we did on car infrastructure on trains, trams, and bike infrastructure. Let's go one step further and imagine that the cities and towns we live in weren't specifically built for cars. Where you could zone an neighborhood to have the necessities of the people living within them need, like grocery stores, hardware stores, and restaurants/cafes. If you don't have to drive 20 minutes to get everything you need then maybe you don't need to lean on cars. The complete change of our city composition to favor cars has been undertaken for the last 80 years. You can't walk to your job because we have designed life around a very specific, inefficient mode of transit.

              There are some really revolutionary ideas that are much more human centric that could really improve your average quality of life. There is the 15-minute city concept. Or a casual biking culture. Cities are starting to limit cars or in some cases remove them. On top of that electrification takes away the fitness and able bodied hurdles from potential bike infrastructure.

              When I have these conversations I am always surprised how many folks defend the car as the only viable option of transit. There are so many thinks I personally hate about cars. Rush hour traffic. Parking tickets. Pollution. We have the alternatives. We know what transportation and city planning designs would be efficient, healthy, and human centric. We can revolutionize our transit system, but we need to move away from the car.

              3 votes
            2. [4]
              mtset
              Link Parent
              There are methods of transit other than cars and walking. If we spent even a fraction as much as we spend on road maintenance on light rail and busses, cities could be far more navigable by...

              There are methods of transit other than cars and walking. If we spent even a fraction as much as we spend on road maintenance on light rail and busses, cities could be far more navigable by pedestrians and people could still get where they needed to go.

              Right now, I have a problem because Chicago isn't upgrading the northern Purple Line stops with accessible elevators, so my friend who uses a wheelchair had a hard time coming to visit me. Sure, they could buy a car, but they don't have the money for that - and surely a communal solution is better in this case, since this same infrastructure would benefit tons of people?

              Note that this isn't an argument for banning cars, just an argument for investing in transit so fewer people need them.

              2 votes
              1. [3]
                Thrabalen
                Link Parent
                Buses are going to have the exact same problem as cars: do we prioritize for those, or for people? As for rail, that carries its own problems. Depending on the size of the city, servicing every...

                Buses are going to have the exact same problem as cars: do we prioritize for those, or for people?

                As for rail, that carries its own problems. Depending on the size of the city, servicing every single neighborhood might be next to impossible.

                And regardless of both of those, we're going to have to revise the entire occupational infrastructure of this country to make any of that feasible. My partner has a 45 minute (minimum) commute to and from work. That commute literally doubles with using mass transit, and the coverage where I live (Philadelphia) is surprisingly good for an American city. Three hours spent on just the commute is a punishing amount of time to spend doing nothing but going to and from work.

                I would love for us to have a good mass transit system, but we are so spread out. We're not the largest physical nation, but most nations of our weight class have large amounts of space where no one lives. If we could solve that in a way that doesn't force the population into a few megapolises, that would be great.

                3 votes
                1. [2]
                  mtset
                  Link Parent
                  It's not the same problem, because you'll never need as many busses per person as you need cars, or even as many square feet of bus per person. More busses means less traffic, and since they have...

                  Buses are going to have the exact same problem as cars: do we prioritize for those, or for people?

                  It's not the same problem, because you'll never need as many busses per person as you need cars, or even as many square feet of bus per person. More busses means less traffic, and since they have defined stops, you can have your cake and eat it too in extremely dense areas by moving them over, under, or around places you expect pedestrians to walk.

                  Also, a paved surface with two-way bike lanes and two-way bus lanes is far, far safer for people to cross willy-nilly, or even walk in, than a paved surface designed primarily for cars. Not to mention that you don't have the problem of car parking, so the paving can be narrower and still get the job done!

                  And regardless of both of those, we're going to have to revise the entire occupational infrastructure of this country to make any of that feasible.

                  This is the goal. This is a good thing. We should a) embrace remote work, b) reimburse employees for time spent commuting, and c) decentralize city infrastructure. That said:

                  My partner has a 45 minute (minimum) commute to and from work. That commute literally doubles with using mass transit, and the coverage where I live (Philadelphia) is surprisingly good for an American city.

                  Is it? I have a 30 minute commute from my house to downtown by car at best in Chicago, which is extended to a not so punishing 45 minutes by transit. I would suggest that this example shows the opposite of what you're trying to show: your city's transit system isn't working for you, and could be improved!

                  I would love for us to have a good mass transit system, but we are so spread out. We're not the largest physical nation, but most nations of our weight class have large amounts of space where no one lives.

                  Sure - but you'll note that I said "busses and light rail". I'm talking about cities because that's where the problem is the worst. I actually don't think that inter-city and interstate highways cause major problems inherently, so long as they terminate before reaching very densely populated areas.

                  3 votes
                  1. Thrabalen
                    Link Parent
                    If we want to be serious about this, there is one American institution that absolutely has to end: the suburb. Suburbs are designed around the central conceit that driving is a Good Thing and...

                    If we want to be serious about this, there is one American institution that absolutely has to end: the suburb.

                    Suburbs are designed around the central conceit that driving is a Good Thing and being a pedestrian is not. Some suburban areas lack sidewalks, which I would consider a necessary feature for any civilized settlement in an industrialized nation.

                    Because the problems is that urban sprawl means that the areas that transit has to cover get larger and larger. That 90 minute commute I mentioned is an almost straight line from home to workplace, because it leaves the city but not the "metro area." This is part of what I meant about funneling us into larger cities... those cities would have to absorb their suburban populations, but not their land. A mass transit system is only as good as it is compact. In the city, the transit system of Philly works. (SEPTA's management is an entirely different subject!)

                    2 votes
            3. [5]
              Adys
              Link Parent
              Motor vehicles have the worst transport density of all vehicles. Bandwidth is far far higher on foot, bikes, buses and trains. The needs of the car are the needs of the few.

              it's simple math: the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.

              Motor vehicles enable millions of people to get where they're going relatively quickly.

              Motor vehicles have the worst transport density of all vehicles. Bandwidth is far far higher on foot, bikes, buses and trains.

              The needs of the car are the needs of the few.

              2 votes
              1. [4]
                Thrabalen
                Link Parent
                Buses and cars use the same infrastructure, and a 45 minute commute by car is absolutely prohibitive on a bicycle (2 hours, in case you wondered.) As for trains, they efficient at moving people,...

                Buses and cars use the same infrastructure, and a 45 minute commute by car is absolutely prohibitive on a bicycle (2 hours, in case you wondered.)

                As for trains, they efficient at moving people, but very inconvenient for people with mobility issues. You still need a motor vehicle to get to the train.

                2 votes
                1. [3]
                  Adys
                  Link Parent
                  Buses and cars can share some infrastructure. They do not have to use the same infrastructure. This is irrelevant because whatever rules you put in place for cars do not have to apply to buses,...

                  Buses and cars use the same infrastructure,

                  Buses and cars can share some infrastructure. They do not have to use the same infrastructure.

                  This is irrelevant because whatever rules you put in place for cars do not have to apply to buses, and vice versa. This is objectively true in most cities as bus lanes are a very common thing for example.

                  1 vote
                  1. [2]
                    Thrabalen
                    Link Parent
                    But pedestrians do need to cross where buses drive, is what I mean. They function, effectively, as very large cars. So the same issues you'll have with cars you'll have with buses, albeit not in...

                    But pedestrians do need to cross where buses drive, is what I mean. They function, effectively, as very large cars. So the same issues you'll have with cars you'll have with buses, albeit not in the same volume.

                    The reason I bring this up is the aforementioned 2D plane issue. Unless you elevate one form of traffic (costly and unsightly) or submerge the other (cost prohibitive and a massive undertaking), they'll still be sharing the same space.

                    2 votes
                    1. mtset
                      Link Parent
                      But assuming the demand for transportation doesn't dramatically increase at the same time, there will be fewer busses per road than there are cars, by a lot. The majority of the time, people could...

                      But assuming the demand for transportation doesn't dramatically increase at the same time, there will be fewer busses per road than there are cars, by a lot. The majority of the time, people could cross without issue - rather than waiting for a slot to cross and letting cars have the space most of the time, people would just need to check that a bus wasn't on the way and then cross any time.

                      1 vote
  7. nukeman
    Link
    Potential hot take, but I feel like a lot of people are ignoring the regulatory angle with this. Governments aren’t just going to approve highway-capable full AVs right off the bat. They will...

    Potential hot take, but I feel like a lot of people are ignoring the regulatory angle with this. Governments aren’t just going to approve highway-capable full AVs right off the bat. They will start with low speed models, likely with a geofencing system built in. I can totally see autonomous NYC taxis traveling at 15 mph or less in the next twenty years. Something like this represents a far lower risk than a vehicle which must also navigate highways and rural areas with vastly different terrain.

    3 votes
  8. Pistos
    Link
    Even if AI stops the car from hitting the obnoxious jaywalking pedestrian, the human inside can still honk the horn and lower the window to yell expletives.

    Even if AI stops the car from hitting the obnoxious jaywalking pedestrian, the human inside can still honk the horn and lower the window to yell expletives.

    2 votes