No, you’re not imagining things. The timelines for autonomous vehicles keep shifting. Electric carmaker Tesla began selling a $3,000 “full self-driving” add-on to its Autopilot feature in 2016 — everything you need to drive without driving !– but still hasn’t turned it on. In 2012, Google’s Sergey Brin said “ordinary people” would have access to self-driving automobiles by 2017; the company is still gearing up for a very limited driverless taxi service this year. Volvo softly delayed a project that was supposed to set 100 Swedish families into autonomous vehicles by 2017.
No one wants unready tech on public roads, but for anyone who has bought into the technology’s promise to save lives, the lag is a bummer. To put it very lightly. Virtually 40,000 Americans died on the road last year. And a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety determines ugly driving tendencies have hit one group particularly hard: pedestrians. Nearly 6,000 pedestrian died in 2016, a 46 percent leap over 2009. And if robots won’t save the bipeds, who will?
Your friendly carbon-based neighborhood traffic engineer can–and they don’t even need artificial intelligence or $75,000 laser sensors to do it.
“If there is too much emphasis on autonomous vehicles resolve the problem, when widespread deployability is decades in the future and not next year, I think it increases the temptation to hope that the technology is going to save us, ” says Liisa Ecola, a transportation planner and senior policy analyst with the Rand Corporation. “Traffic safety is a big problem now and to ignore the things we can do, I think, is a disservice to the tens of thousands of people who are killed each year in crashes.”