Autonomous vehicles and cycling’s future

March 9, 2015

st0309-02It has been two months since the public gained access to the Department of Motor Vehicles Headquarters in California’s capital, Sacramento. Up on the sixth floor in the main assembly room citizens gathered alongside carmakers, lobbyists, and lawmakers as a public forum commenced to tackle the imminent and inevitable rise of the autonomous car.

While the notion of self-driving cars seemed more science fiction than plausible reality a mere ten years ago, many manufactures have already developed and thoroughly tested their proprietary technologies to allow the gumption of many companies to timetable a release of market-ready, traffic-ready autonomous vehicles by as early as 2015.

This has left the CA DMV against a flurry of deadlines to construct and articulate the regulations of such a revolutionary addition to streets.

But while the conference chatter buzzed around the obvious and duly important notions of safety, licensing, and manufacturers’ fail-safe procedures, much has been left unspoken about the fate of cyclists, who have already been struggling to find a voice in today’s increasingly congested California streets.

Ridership in many parts of southern California has been on the rise, with some biker-friendly counties openly considering lane policies and street construction plans that incorporate the cyclists as part of the rightful street-using population. But not much has been said of the fate of cyclists in light of the imminent assimilation of our new futuristic road-going phenomenon, the autonomous vehicle.

There are many plans being thrown around in the discussion-some that prioritize keeping the streets as unchanged as possible; others that will extol a great price in status quo with drastic changes to the way road rules apply. One way or another, concerns do arise as to what kind of voice, if any, is advocating the maintenance and welfare of cyclists’safety and enjoyment.

To be clear, this is not to say that cyclists are opposed to autonomous vehicles. Indeed, initial reports confirm the likelihood that autonomous vehicles will decrease the number of traffic-related accidents in and around town.

It is to say, however, that the autonomous vehicle may be heralded as the future; so much so that some road regulations proposed enthusiastically disregard and leave unmentioned the rights of cyclists to coexist. As a LA cyclist myself, I hope this is not the case, and that members of discourse in this matter remember that cyclists share the road, too.

 

st0309-02-1 Ryan Lee
Harvard Westlakel 11th Grade

One Comment

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