U.S. Regulators Wont Make Self-Driving Cars Safe for Pedestrians
July 7, 2019 8:23 AM   Subscribe

They haven’t bothered to do that with SUVs. For the past 10 years. American consumers have increasingly opted for cars that make drivers safer and pedestrians more vulnerable, as pedestrian deaths have reached crisis levels. More than 65 percent of new vehicles sold in the United States are pickups or SUVS, up from 49 percent a decade ago. (Ford has all but stopped U.S. production of cars.) The SUV revolution, a Detroit Free Press/USA Today investigation concluded last summer, is “a leading cause of escalating pedestrian deaths nationwide.” Last month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released projections for roadway fatalities in 2018: For the second year in a row, overall traffic deaths fell, while pedestrians fatalities rose, and cyclist deaths jumped by 10 percent over 2017. “America’s roads are safe increasingly for only those who drive on them,”
posted by Homo neanderthalensis (50 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
For some reason (probably coal rolling), I find it easy to visualize a future of self-driving cars where a subset of owners "tune" then with hacks that actually increase the odds of causing near misses, pedestrian injuries and deaths, because it makes them feel powerful and gets them praise from their friends. That, or hacks that temporarily disable the system in order to cause harm at will, under protection of laws that absolve the "driver" of responsibility in self-driving car accidents.

Or, we could be sane and legally/programmatically treat self-driving capabilities in the same way we do traction control and similar technologies, as an assistance device that steps in to prevent injuries when it can, and with the driver retaining all legal responsibility for accidents.
posted by davejay at 8:36 AM on July 7, 2019 [12 favorites]


This is because liability for pedestrian / cyclist fatalities isn't shared with the civil engineer and city planners who put pedestrians and cyclists in harm's way. Change that, with a true Vision Zero program, and you'll make a difference.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:39 AM on July 7, 2019 [31 favorites]


It's not like people don't know this; getting them to care is the tricky part. In the United States, poor people and people with disabilities are more likely to be pedestrians. And we all know how many fucks most Americans give about those subsets of the population.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:24 AM on July 7, 2019 [41 favorites]


of course they won't

(bicycles or barbarism, folks.)
posted by entropicamericana at 9:36 AM on July 7, 2019 [4 favorites]


dangerous by design
"Even after controlling for differences in population size and walking rates, we see that drivers strike and kill people over age 50, Black or African American people, American Indian or Alaska Native people, and people walking in communities with lower median household incomes at much higher rates."
posted by entropicamericana at 9:38 AM on July 7, 2019 [38 favorites]


The way things have been going, I’m waiting for news to break that it uses face recognition to run a credit & background check to decide whether your next of kin will be able to successfully sue the car manufacturer.
posted by adamsc at 9:43 AM on July 7, 2019 [10 favorites]


so Europe evaluates SUVs more strictly on govt safety ratings by considering crash scenarios with vulnerable road users, and it's the right idea but not nearly enough. for all vehicles, but especially SUVs, autonomous and semi autonomous vehicles, we need calculations of externalities baked into the taxes and registration fees. you want to drive an SUV or self driving car? fine, but if it's less safe, if it emits more and takes up more valuable urban space, we're going to triple the registration fee accordingly. this is sadly a state level thing and only states like CA probably have the political will to do this. my state, TX, leads the nation in traffic deaths and hasn't had a day without one since 2000, and the embarrassment that is our state lege still won't prioritize any kind of vision zero plan despite the fact that the state transportation commission voted to adopt one. instead, they argued for months this spring over a minor decrease in property tax.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:47 AM on July 7, 2019 [12 favorites]


for all vehicles, but especially SUVs, autonomous and semi autonomous vehicles, we need calculations of externalities baked into the taxes and registration fees

No, we don't need taxes and registration fees, we need per mile usage fees, adaptive to congestion and demand and disamenity caused by the motor vehicle's presence.
posted by ambrosen at 9:52 AM on July 7, 2019 [7 favorites]


This is because liability for pedestrian / cyclist fatalities isn't shared

You can't share what doesn't exist. Citations and penalties for hitting anything in your car simply don't exist in any meaningful sense.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:08 AM on July 7, 2019 [32 favorites]


This is because liability for pedestrian / cyclist fatalities isn't shared with the civil engineer and city planners who put pedestrians and cyclists in harm's way. Change that, with a true Vision Zero program, and you'll make a difference.

It's intriguing to consider how high salaries would need to be to get a planner or engineer to take on that kind of individual liability. Right now those jobs pay an ok middle class salary, but not nearly enough for what you are describing. (And, as agency technical staff, they work within priorities and frameworks set by policy makers.)

I didn't find the article all that compelling. Yes, pedestrian deaths in the US are way too high and it seems like no one cares at the policy level, so it keeps getting worse. But I will be surprised if even crappy automated cars aren't safer than human drivers, since we are collectively pretty terrible at it.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:24 AM on July 7, 2019 [15 favorites]


I think that self-driving cars will probably turn out to be safer for bicyclists and pedestrians than what we have now, since self-driving cars aren't distracted or oblivious. Awareness is really hard to train into drivers, but machines? They don't have the same biases. Their failure modes are very different; we might find they are very bad at recognizing pedestrians who are wearing bright green, or something random like that. But they won't forget to look in their mirrors before turning.

I do think that self-driving cars will probably not be as safe as they can be, though. And that's still something to be concerned about, because that's still unnecessary injury and death!

Actually, though, we should just get rid of cars.

(Only half-joking.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:51 AM on July 7, 2019 [8 favorites]


So nobody reads Fritz Lieber? X Marks the Pedwalk.
posted by dannyboybell at 10:56 AM on July 7, 2019 [15 favorites]


I was surprised when Ford announced the end of production on virtually every car they make (I think they still produce Mustangs for branding reasons more than anything else). When the last recession hit and all the auto companies were taking bailouts, it was Ford that survived it relatively unscathed because they were producing cars when their competitors weren't and when gas prices become an issue suddenly everyone wants to buy a car again. The next bubble burst could be around the corner and I bet they'll be caught out when it happens.

I think the SUV craze is at least partly down to marketing. I've always owned cars because I don't care about what marketing says I should (at least in this case), and I've never felt unsafe. I know people commonly say they feel safer in a big vehicle, and I think there's a grain of truth to that, but I also think it's just a thing people say to have something to say when they get in their friend's new vehicle and are expected to comment appreciatively. What else can you say? "Well, it's certainly... tall."
posted by axiom at 11:11 AM on July 7, 2019 [5 favorites]


You can't share what doesn't exist. Citations and penalties for hitting anything in your car simply don't exist in any meaningful sense.

That depends entirely on the relative social standing of the particular driver and the person they struck. Sideswipe a well respected person on a bicycle and you're going to prison. Mow down me or one of my neighbors while we're crossing the road, however, and the police will blame it on the pedestrian even though the law is very clear that drivers must yield to pedestrians in the roadway in all but one very specific circumstance involving traffic signals.

I think that's what infuriates me most about the situation. The law is fine, but the people charged with enforcing it simply don't. I don't even blame the police since prosecutors simply refuse to bring charges unless the driver was drunk, no matter how reckless their driving.
posted by wierdo at 11:14 AM on July 7, 2019 [8 favorites]


If cities required all employees from the mayor down to live in the city and take public transportation to and from work every day (or walk or ride a bike), you would see a magic transformation in pedestrian safety and measures of livability.
posted by pracowity at 11:17 AM on July 7, 2019 [13 favorites]


I think that self-driving cars will probably turn out to be safer for bicyclists and pedestrians than what we have now, since self-driving cars aren't distracted or oblivious. Awareness is really hard to train into drivers, but machines? They don't have the same biases.

But the people who build and program them do have biases, and the companies who manufacture them want them to appeal to buyers who have biases. Self-driving cars could be safer for pedestrians - as long as the people making them are motivated to make them that way.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:31 AM on July 7, 2019 [5 favorites]


There is no such thing as an effective pedestrian safety initiative that does not have as its bedrock concept the installation of well-maintained sidewalks, crosswalks and stoplights on every road in America. If people have to walk in the street because there are no sidewalks or cut across four-lane roads because there are no crosswalks, people are going to get killed. People need a safe place to walk. The street is not safe, full stop, and never will be, autonomous cars or no.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:40 AM on July 7, 2019 [10 favorites]


It's telling how few, if any, of the visualizations and promotion of our Self-Driving Car Future include pedestrians in the mix. Here's an example. Here's another. Adding pedestrians to the mix, of course, would put a wrench in the hyper-efficient traffic modeling stuff that's part of the self-driving car pitch, but it's also a willing blind-spot among self-driving car wonks.

I've had discussions about this with self-driving car wonks and one popular retort is "Oh, just build a bunch of pedestrian bridges over all the intersections." Of course, this fails to take into account the problem of accessibility. The slope for an ADA-acceptable wheelchair ramp is 1:12, meaning a 10 foot high ramp would require a 120 foot long ramp. Adding escalators or elevators on each corner of a four-way intersection of pedestrian bridges would be a maintenance nightmare.

But heaven forfend anything slow down our cars, right?
posted by SansPoint at 11:45 AM on July 7, 2019 [10 favorites]


This is because liability for pedestrian / cyclist fatalities isn't shared with the civil engineer and city planners who put pedestrians and cyclists in harm's way. Change that, with a true Vision Zero program, and you'll make a difference.

As a transportation engineer, I disagree. But not for the reason you think. Civil engineering is mostly led by structural engineering, where the fundamental principle is that your building shouldn't fall down and nobody should get hurt. And it works really well. But transportation engineering is quite different. People die on transportation facilities, and sometimes it's not going to be the fault of the facility designer -- it's not possible to make a road where a sufficiently motivated drunk driver can't hurt themselves or others, for instance. As a result, the fear of liability which permeates Civil engineering suggests we stick to the standards and codes.

If you build a building to the standards and it falls down in a windstorm, it's probably the storm's fault. If you go off the codes, it's probably yours. The same is true in transportation -- if you design according to the code, you're covered. But my profession is already full of fear of the liability you are talking about. This leads to sticking to codes, and the existing codes are the thing that creates such terrible road conditions; they're generally set out as "highway design manuals" and are only appropriate if you want fast traffic and have no pedestrians. I don't think this means that liability needs to be removed; rather the codes need to be changed and improved, and the new urban-focused NACTO design guides are the most exciting thing I've seen in a decade; they are being endorsed by ITE.

If we're parcelling out blame, in addition to people who actually kill and maim pedestrians and other vulnerable road users getting some actual punishment beyond the usual slap on the wrist -- and people who do less-than-lethal road infractions like speeding getting some punishment at all -- it'd be good to give some blame to politicians and the developer and NIMBY groups that support them. The practising engineers and planners I know -- especially the younger half of the profession -- are in general a hell of a lot more radical than the politicians and communities worried about their property values and neighbourhood character will let them be.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:54 AM on July 7, 2019 [44 favorites]


pracowity: "If cities required all employees from the mayor down to live in the city and take public transportation to and from work every day (or walk or ride a bike), you would see a magic transformation in pedestrian safety and measures of livability."

Our city does require all employees (other than police) to live within the city limits but the city has no control over the transit system. Now if they could just get the police to ticket drivers for running through crosswalks and rolling through stop signs.
posted by octothorpe at 11:56 AM on July 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


we need per mile usage fees, adaptive to congestion and demand and disamenity caused by the motor vehicle's presence.

So adding more fees to the people pushed out by gentrification, who are less likely to have good public transportation alternatives?
posted by corb at 12:15 PM on July 7, 2019 [6 favorites]


But the people who build and program them do have biases, and the companies who manufacture them want them to appeal to buyers who have biases.

I was specifically speaking about biases in attention. Humans are just very good at ignoring things. Yes, with self-driving cars, there will be biases, but they are always "alert", so to speak.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:18 PM on July 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


Yes, with self-driving cars, there will be biases, but they are always "alert", so to speak.

They don't exist, so no, they aren't. And what we have in between (autobraking, lanekeeping, etc.) doesn't work that great and makes the problem worse, since drivers now have to attend to their usual distractions and driving IN ADDITION to wondering whether today is the day the car drives into a barrier.

Teslas drive into semis and Boeing airplanes fly themselves into the ground. These are simple problems to handle, and yet... That is the state of the art, and it sucks.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:24 PM on July 7, 2019 [8 favorites]


seanmpuckett: This is because liability for pedestrian / cyclist fatalities isn't shared with the civil engineer and city planners who put pedestrians and cyclists in harm's way. Change that, with a true Vision Zero program, and you'll make a difference.

As others pointed out, I'm not sure how much you'd have to pay median income staffers to take on this level of liability, let alone be able to hire anyone. And though we can do better to design pedestrian safe spaces, in other regards, we've engineered the heck out of the roadway, to make it safer for drivers (yes, the focus here is on pedestrians, but stay with me). For example, break-away signs and posts for road departure crashes are because drivers have trouble staying on the road. From the Detroit Free Press article:
A Ford Explorer driven by 27-year-old Alex Bradshaw hopped a curb and hit them as they stood on a sidewalk. Canadians Patti Lou and Ronald Doornbos, both 60, were also struck by the SUV as they walked toward the corner in a marked crosswalk. Patti Lou died immediately; Ronald died June 12.
These pedestrians were in "safe" pedestrian spaces -- the sidewalk, and a marked pedestrian crossing. The engineers and planners are not at fault. And the point of the Free Press article is that these pedestrians may have lived if they were hit by a car, based on the basic designs of the SUV -- significantly taller profile, as seen in the embedded video (which is only a bit misleading, in placing the taller man next to the car, while the shorter man is next to the SUV).

Dip Flash: I will be surprised if even crappy automated cars aren't safer than human drivers, since we are collectively pretty terrible at it.

Exactly my point. People are already proven to be terrible at driving, even without having to take Trolley Problems into consideration. Because people can't stay on the road in daylight hours, with no weather impacts, I'm already looking forward to semi-autonomous vehicles.


slow graffiti: for all vehicles, but especially SUVs, autonomous and semi autonomous vehicles, we need calculations of externalities baked into the taxes and registration fees. you want to drive an SUV or self driving car? fine, but if it's less safe, if it emits more and takes up more valuable urban space, we're going to triple the registration fee accordingly.

ambrosen: No, we don't need taxes and registration fees, we need per mile usage fees, adaptive to congestion and demand and disamenity caused by the motor vehicle's presence

Taxes and registration fees are far simpler to apply, and don't require vehicle tracking or honest self-reporting. That's not to say road user charges are not still a good idea, and actively being discussed by the federal government and states, as they try to grapple with how to accurately charge individual users for their use of the public transportation networks. I used to think this was a bigger issue, but apparently "thanks" to the increased SUV purchases, fuel efficiency is not decreasing, despite more efficient passenger cars and more hybrid or alternate fuel vehicles on the road.


pracowity: If cities required all employees from the mayor down to live in the city and take public transportation to and from work every day (or walk or ride a bike), you would see a magic transformation in pedestrian safety and measures of livability.

Except housing prices are often most expensive close to major work centers, which is the reason so many people commute. And people generally use cars because transit is slow, or doesn't get close enough to their homes and/or destinations. So let's start with significant investments into transit before rolling out such measures.


axiom: I think the SUV craze is at least partly down to marketing.

Oh gods yes. I don't know how car companies get away with saying "I don't know why people aren't buying more of our efficient cars?" Ask your marketing department. Also, Ford profits more off of their trucks than cars, so marketing + profits = no reason to sell cars, without stronger regulations on emissions (I'm pretty sure cars have higher emissions and fuel efficiency requirements than light trucks, which includes SUVs, but I'll confirm that later, unless someone else has a link handy).
posted by filthy light thief at 12:26 PM on July 7, 2019 [11 favorites]


There's also the perverse incentive that "trucks" depreciate differently such that being over 6,000 lbs (including SUVs), giving a tax incentive to make and buy unnecessarily heavy vehicles. I know at least a few F150 owners that set up "consulting businesses" so they could claim the depreciation on their personal vehicles. It probably wouldn't stand up to an audit but the chances of getting hit with one is pretty slim.
posted by Candleman at 1:14 PM on July 7, 2019 [5 favorites]


I don't agree that road design has nothing to do with the crash shown in that Detroit Free Press article. Like many roads in the Western US, they built a four lane, divided highway through a mixed commercial/residential area. There is really no "safe pedestrian zone" in this kind of design. The lowest listed speed limit on that road that I could find is 35 mph. That article indicates that speed is a huge factor in pedestrian deaths after accidents. Narrow the roads, lower the speed limits, make drivers feel less safe so they drive defensively. That is something that planners and engineers can help to do to lower pedestrian deaths in cities.
posted by muddgirl at 1:15 PM on July 7, 2019 [11 favorites]


Popularity of SUV/crossovers is also partly due to the repercussions of regulations on car design: as hoods and beltlines get higher, visibility out of efficient small cars diminishes. Couple that with the visibility and rule of tonnage advantage of larger, taller cars and it's easy to understand why many car buyers are moving toward crossovers. Here in the PNW it's a tradeoff between the easy parking, gas mileage, and agility of my turbo four wagon vs not feeling like a brodozer is going to run me over in my weekend truck.
posted by a halcyon day at 1:15 PM on July 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


I just looked up that case further and the driver was going 53 miles per hour in a 35 zone and using his cell phone. Road design can't completely eliminate speeding and inattentive driving but it can severely reduce it. Here is a short article on traffic calming.
posted by muddgirl at 1:29 PM on July 7, 2019 [3 favorites]


Unfortunately, the inexpensive methods of traffic calming don't actually do anything to fix problems that exist outside of people's heads, so all we get is worse emergency response, more traffic noise, more pollution, and unnecessary wear and tear on vehicles.

Narrowing roads, reducing sightlines, planting trees, and adding street furniture improves neighborhoods and slows down traffic, but is expensive. What we actually get are ineffective and infuriating speed bumps and speed tables because they are cheap.
posted by wierdo at 1:38 PM on July 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


I admit that I am not an expert, but I don't see why effective traffic calming is more effective than ineffective traffic calming in this particular situation. A traffic study is generally required in either case, no difference in cost. Lane narrowing can be accomplished with a repaint. Paint in diagonal parking for the nearby park to turn a four-lane road into a two-lane road. Fountain Hills is already committed to increasing green cover per their city plan.

I think what is expensive is the political will to tell drivers, including the ones on city council, that they don't have the right to unlimited use of public space to the detriment of the community.
posted by muddgirl at 1:59 PM on July 7, 2019 [7 favorites]


Painting lines doesn't actually slow drivers down. Fining people doesn't slow drivers down, either. As with many other areas of life, relying on people to do the socially responsible thing even though their monkey brain says differently doesn't actually work, though it does make us feel like we are doing something.

The only way to reliably change driver behavior is by tricking their monkey brain into thinking that higher speeds are unsafe. We have proven means of accomplishing that task, but for the most part choose not to.
posted by wierdo at 2:11 PM on July 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


No, we don't need taxes and registration fees, we need per mile usage fees, adaptive to congestion and demand and disamenity caused by the motor vehicle's presence.

* Parked vehicles * are currently the biggest obstacle to building any sort of reasonable cycle infrastructure in my part of the world.

(“There’s simple no space for cycle infrastructure on our narrow streets! Space for people to dump their gargantuan personal vehicles that don’t move 95% of the time? Sure, why not”)
posted by grahamparks at 2:32 PM on July 7, 2019 [7 favorites]


Sign seen on 1/4 mile stretch between crosswalks:

"There are two kinds of pedestrians:
The Quick and The Dead
Use crosswalks."
posted by Marky at 2:37 PM on July 7, 2019


But at least these dangerous electric cars will also make a lot of unnessesary noise to protect deaf people.
posted by krisjohn at 2:42 PM on July 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


"If cities required all employees from the mayor down to live in the city and take public transportation to and from work every day (or walk or ride a bike), you would see a magic transformation in pedestrian safety and measures of livability."

Our city does require all employees (other than police) to live within the city limits but the city has no control over the transit system. Now if they could just get the police to ticket drivers for running through crosswalks and rolling through stop signs.


Chicago requires most city workers to live within Chicago boundaries. You know what happens though? Top leadership tends to get granted special exemptions because they live out in the tony burbs and their skills are deemed essential and unique. We'll see if the new progressive mayor does this as much as the last regressive mayor.

Even when they don't get exempted though a lot of the high rolling municipal employees, like the white cops and firemen, tend to live in highly segregated enclaves on the very distant edges of the city. There are police neighborhoods in Chicago that are not serviced very effectively by public transit for strategic political reasons and which are notoriously unwelcoming of certain types of people even passing through. They end up being effectively suburban satellites of the city and the policy goal of integration and shared citywide concerns fails.

But I believe the real problem here is political capture by the insurance industry. Caps on settlements for traffic fatalities let death just become a relatively stable cost of doing business (and a sacrifice to the wicker man of transportation) rather than something insurance companies should be working hard to prevent. They should be refusing to insure extra lethal vehicles. That they don't refuse to insure or have substantially higher premiums for extra lethal and unsafe vehicles tells you something about how effectively they have been in getting legislators to shield them from the risks their business should be assuming but somehow isn't. Before this happened insurance companies were often at the forefront of pushing for the adoption of safety technology in automobiles. But that hasn't been the case in a long long time.
posted by srboisvert at 2:57 PM on July 7, 2019 [7 favorites]


we need per mile usage fees

Such fees disproportionately burden lower income drivers.
posted by she's not there at 4:08 PM on July 7, 2019 [2 favorites]


Well there's that old maxim in management - what you measure gets prioritized, and every other metric gets sacrificed. There are two major crash regimes, the ones in the US and the ones in Europe.

NHTSA / IIHS in the US measures cars mostly from the perspective of the driver and front passenger. It has several measures that are not covered in the European testing regime - roof rollover strength, small frontal overlap collisions.

Contrast this to the Euro NCAP tries to go for a more holistic approach and and has several measures not covered in the US testing regime - it has measures for rear passenger safety in frontal collision, measures for pedestrian injury protection, measures for child seat performance, and a side pole collision test.

It's possible for the exact same car to score 5/5 stars safety in one continent and only 2/5 stars in the other continent - it's all based on what you measure.

The Euro side pole collision test is difficult to pass well - it's a scenario where a car skids sideways into a tree or utility pole and it strikes the driver / passenger door centered on your head. You basically have a contact patch of maybe 2 inches where all the force is concentrated, and there's mere inches between your head and the side glass...

The US equivalent of "difficult to pass" would be the small frontal overlap test, where the vehicle strikes another object across just 25% of the frontal structure, this makes it very difficult for the crash absorbing structure to work.
posted by xdvesper at 5:13 PM on July 7, 2019 [9 favorites]


So I spend a bit of time with someone who researches motor vehicle accidents. The real chuckle with SUVs is that they are not actually that safe even for the driver and the passenger. Their higher centre of gravity makes them prone to roll over and topple over. As a result, put on a helmet whenever you ride in a SUV as there is a much higher rate of brain injury. Seatbelts are far less protection in SUVs unless they are the webbed variety for the same reason.

Her comment, "If safety is your priority, the cheapest new car is safer than even the most expensive top of the line 2 year old car."
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 5:32 PM on July 7, 2019 [9 favorites]


I admit that I am not an expert, but I don't see why effective traffic calming is more effective than ineffective traffic calming in this particular situation.

Because the window dressing sort of traffic calming doesn't meaningfully slow drivers down, which is by far the most effective way of reducing the severity of injuries to pedestrians when the inevitable collision happens. Add to that the increased noise and air pollution and it starts looking actively counterproductive to me.

Perhaps I'm being a bit dogmatic about it since I had this argument with my city government a couple of months ago when they proposed putting a speed table next to my house. Never mind that a mini-roundabout at the intersection would accomplish the same goal while decreasing pollution, congestion, and the severity of car-car crashes while costing only slightly more than putting in a couple of speed tables.

Better still would be to rip out at least half the street parking, planting some trees, and adding bulb-outs at all the intersections along the relevant stretch, but that isn't possible within the available budget, so I get why they don't.
posted by wierdo at 5:38 PM on July 7, 2019 [3 favorites]


This struck me,
"A lot of the autonomous vehicles need real life data," said Charlie Gates. "If they're done in the perfect scenarios, we don't actually get good data"

It helps that an "... aspect of the facility is its connection to Kettering’s 4G LTE Advanced wireless cellular research network. Kettering is the only university in the country operating a private 4G LTE Advanced cellular network infrastructure. The network operates at 10X the data speed of current cellular networks, and provides researchers on the proving ground and surrounding areas with unique access to the next generation of cellular communications systems."

Odd, Flint has a Soap box derby again, which had been closed for 10 or so years.
And who's fooling who as there is most likely not enough material on the planet to allocate resources to make 200,000,000 of the things.
posted by clavdivs at 6:51 PM on July 7, 2019


I remember when Ford sold a cheap Ranger pickup, and they did a study on why it sold so well. Turns out their research said it was the cheapest new vehicle Ford sold at the time, so young people bought 'em to have a new car without paying the extra few thousand for the Focus. They responded to this by dropping the Ranger and bringing the new Fiesta (not the original) to the US.

However, they were only partially right; as someone who bought one of those, I didn't only buy it because it was cheap. I also bought it because it looked like something I bought for practical reasons, not because it was cheap. Kind of like how the original Prius became a success in Los Angeles not for the eco-friendliness, but because celebrities were driving them to be eco-friendly, and everyone else reallzed they could look like a celebrity on the cheap by buying them.

Eventually Ford figured out their mistake -- the whole industry did -- hence the high-fashion high-markup SUV and CUV market as it exists today
posted by davejay at 7:15 PM on July 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


Narrow the roads, lower the speed limits, make drivers feel less safe so they drive defensively. That is something that planners and engineers can help to do to lower pedestrian deaths in cities.


We just had a thread about the state of infrastructure in the US, and the big Achiles heel issue here is that road maintenance costs add up by the square foot.

Narrow the roads, and you save some serious coin too.
posted by ocschwar at 7:45 PM on July 7, 2019 [4 favorites]


pracowity: If cities required all employees from the mayor down to live in the city and take public transportation to and from work every day (or walk or ride a bike), you would see a magic transformation in pedestrian safety and measures of livability.
---------------------------------
Except housing prices are often most expensive close to major work centers, which is the reason so many people commute. And people generally use cars because transit is slow, or doesn't get close enough to their homes and/or destinations. So let's start with significant investments into transit before rolling out such measures.


I think that's part of the point, though? One of the reasons that public transit is so inadequate in most American cities is that the people in charge have no real motivation to improve it. A significant proportion of the people who would benefit from it are those who can't afford to keep personal automobiles. If the people making the decisions truly knew what it was like to have to walk a mile to the nearest bus stop every day, or always have to choose between being an hour early or fifteen minutes late to everything, it would give them the incentive they currently lack to make things better for everybody.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:02 PM on July 7, 2019 [3 favorites]


And maybe housing, school, shopping, and other options would become better if all city employees had to live in the city they ran. If your kid uses the sidewalks and you are in charge of designing and maintaining sidewalks, maybe the sidewalks will be that much safer.
posted by pracowity at 10:46 PM on July 7, 2019 [5 favorites]


the existing codes are the thing that creates such terrible road conditions; they're generally set out as "highway design manuals" and are only appropriate if you want fast traffic and have no pedestrians. I don't think this means that liability needs to be removed; rather the codes need to be changed and improved, and the new urban-focused NACTO design guides are the most exciting thing I've seen in a decade; they are being endorsed by ITE.

New York City just adopted the Vision Zero Street Design Standard law, which was originally published as a set of policy recommendations by the transportation advocacy org I work for.

The law "requires the Department of Transportation to develop a standard checklist of safety-enhancing street design elements that the department must consider for all major transportation projects. For each major transportation project, DOT would be required to complete a checklist stating which street design elements have been applied, and if an element has not been applied, the reason for not applying such element."

Now, this law doesn't technically obligate the city to do anything beyond publish the checklist. But now, if they do something like refuse to protect a bike lane because it would remove parking or whatever, and then someone dies on that street, there will be a publicly available document showing that the city could have made the street safer but didn't. That opens them up to legal liability, not to mention terrible press.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:28 AM on July 8, 2019 [4 favorites]


Sideswipe a well respected person on a bicycle and you're going to prison.

Not really.
posted by alexei at 9:50 AM on July 8, 2019 [7 favorites]


And maybe housing, school, shopping, and other options would become better if all city employees had to live in the city they ran.

So, uh... is living across the street OK? Like, if you work for more than one city at a time? Asking for a friend.
posted by asperity at 11:29 AM on July 8, 2019


The way things have been going, I’m waiting for news to break that it uses face recognition to run a credit & background check to decide whether your next of kin will be able to successfully sue the car manufacturer.

This is the actual solution to the trolley problem: what are your obstacles worth in dollars? Your car calculates: cost(UnitedHealth, Anthem, Kaiser, State Farm, Berkshire Hathaway, Liberty Mutual, Allstate, Progressive, Travelers) --> avoid the lawyer, dodge the BMW, don't hit the new office building, kill the old man, blame the old man, settle out of court.
posted by pracowity at 2:33 AM on July 9, 2019 [2 favorites]




U.S. Regulators Wont Make Self-Driving Cars Safe for Pedestrians

U.S. Regulators Won't Make Cars Safe For Women -- Risk of injuries in car accidents 73% higher for women than men: Study (MSN; the study: Automobile injury trends in the contemporary fleet: Belted occupants in frontal collisions, published online 8 July 2019 in Traffic Injury Prevention)
posted by filthy light thief at 9:07 AM on July 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


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