Why it’s so difficult for autonomous vehicles to see bikes

How bicyclists, pedestrians, and autonomous vehicles can cohabitate?

When I’m pedaling down North Pershing Drive in Arlington, Va., dodging cars or car doors or trash and delivery trucks, Mobility Mama wonders how her kids ever make it anywhere incident free.

“We never ride on Pershing, we cross it and head through the neighborhood. Mobility Mama, what were you thinking?”

“I was thinking about how much safer things would be if there were no drivers,” I offer lamely.

“Whatever. Just keep your mind on the road you are on and keep off streets where the only thing predictable is that no one will see you, no one will slow down, and that you are the loser in the law of great gross tonnage.”

Isn’t it delightful to have such a concise, pointed set of safety encomiums thrown back at you when you are just trying to puzzle out an important policy issue?

To the air, I ask, “Seriously, would things be safer if we had autonomous or driverless vehicles? At least the AV would stop if I biked in front of it.”

(I continued with my transportation-wonk musings, but my kids’ attention was in the proverbial rearview mirror and, if they could, they would have taken away the keys to my bike to prevent me from riding down a dangerous roadway!) Regardless, we were onto something.

As technology companies and automakers accelerate their testing and move to deployment, integrating AVs into environments where we want to encourage bicyclists (and pedestrians) is one of the toughest problems facing communities.

14. September 2017

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