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Thread: Malcolm Gladwell on the Implications of Self Driving Cars for Other Road Users

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    Default Malcolm Gladwell on the Implications of Self Driving Cars for Other Road Users

    As I was driving across North Dakota on Sunday, I got deep into the Revisionist History archives and stumbled across an episode titled I Love You Waymo. It wasn't what I was expecting, and it changed how I think about the possibility of self driving cars.

    The synopsis is that currently cars rule the road by threatening that they will squash other users, even if that threat is illegal. That environment of threat makes roads inhospitable to other users (no surprise to any of us). But, in a world of reliable self driving cars, cars will not be threatening, but rather polite. Gladwell and his producer call up a Waymo in Phoenix to see just how this might work out, and quickly discover that they can totally manipulate the vehicle from outside, with the implication that cyclists, runners, and kids playing ball would be able to take over the roads and grind traffic to a halt.

    Listen here, or wherever fine podcast are sold.

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    Default Re: Malcolm Gladwell on the Implications of Self Driving Cars for Other Road Users

    Sure, but he is also paid by General Motors to be an advocate for autonomous vehicle technology, so I'd pile a fair amount of salt on that.

    https://twitter.com/rmac18/status/14...251520?lang=en
    steve cortez

    FNG

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    Default Re: Malcolm Gladwell on the Implications of Self Driving Cars for Other Road Users

    Apologies if this is covered in the podcast, but I think this also conveniently ignores that automobiles as a menace was not the default and was written into law through a concerted lobby effort of the auto manufacturers and standard oil. Streets were public places until the 1920s, and only through concerted effort made the sole domain of cars.


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    Default Re: Malcolm Gladwell on the Implications of Self Driving Cars for Other Road Users

    Quote Originally Posted by zetroc View Post
    Sure, but he is also paid by General Motors to be an advocate for autonomous vehicle technology, so I'd pile a fair amount of salt on that.

    https://twitter.com/rmac18/status/14...251520?lang=en
    Wait, are we talking about Gladwell or Gottlieb?

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    Default Re: Malcolm Gladwell on the Implications of Self Driving Cars for Other Road Users

    Quote Originally Posted by zetroc View Post
    Sure, but he is also paid by General Motors to be an advocate for autonomous vehicle technology, so I'd pile a fair amount of salt on that.
    The message of the podcast is that autonomous vehicles might turn out to be a nightmare for people trying to use them to get around, so not exactly an endorsement from a transportation perspective.

    Quote Originally Posted by spopepro View Post
    Apologies if this is covered in the podcast, but I think this also conveniently ignores that automobiles as a menace was not the default and was written into law through a concerted lobby effort of the auto manufacturers and standard oil. Streets were public places until the 1920s, and only through concerted effort made the sole domain of cars.
    Yes, and I suspect if Gladwell's imagined world (he's actually cliffing it from an economist who wrote a game theory article about it, which he acknowledges) of pedestrians and cyclists retaking the roads ever came to pass, the police (who would no longer be needed to police traffic) would be turned on the pedestrians and cyclists to clear the way for car traffic.
    Last edited by caleb; 09-14-2021 at 06:20 PM.

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    Default Re: Malcolm Gladwell on the Implications of Self Driving Cars for Other Road Users

    Quote Originally Posted by caleb View Post
    Yes, and I suspect if Gladwell's imagined world of pedestrians and cyclists retaking the roads ever came to pass, the police (who would no longer be needed to police traffic) would be turned on the pedestrians and cyclists to clear the way for car traffic.
    Oh totally--and more succinctly put for what I was trying to say. Tech bros are already anticipating it and calling for it. Check out "How Jaywalking Could Jam Up the Era of Self Driving Cars" in the old grey lady (if you pay).

    In New York, the unwritten rule is plain: Cross the street whenever and wherever ó just donít get hit. Itís a practice that separates New Yorkers from tourists, who innocently wait at the corner for the walk symbol. But if pedestrians know theyíll never be run over, jaywalking could explode, grinding traffic to a halt.

    ...

    One solution, suggested by an automotive industry official, is gates at each corner, which would periodically open to allow pedestrians to cross.

    That prospect seems as likely as never-late subways. But itís an example of the thinking by those who worry about planning for the future.

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    Default Re: Malcolm Gladwell on the Implications of Self Driving Cars for Other Road Users

    "Gladwell's imagined world", heh. Who was it that identified Gladwell as the guy who, in just 10,000 words, can achieve absurdity on any subject?

    But to the point: do we realistically expect self-driving cars to do much better, or much worse, than human-driven cars? Most of the time you'll get there okay, and now and then there'll be a disaster. The people selling the idea may claim they'll be safer, but remember that what they say isn't, you know, someone telling you something -- it's advertising.

    In any case I don't think many of us reading this will live to see a 100% switchover -- that's a long, long way off. And as long as there's a mixture, even if autonomous vehicles were perfectly, infallibly safe, we wouldn't be able to take any advantage of their safety, because there'd still be unpredictable humans lurking where we least expect them. So safety is not where autonomous vehicles offer any improvement.

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    Default Re: Malcolm Gladwell on the Implications of Self Driving Cars for Other Road Users

    Edit: Never mind, found it.

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    Default Re: Malcolm Gladwell on the Implications of Self Driving Cars for Other Road Users

    Quote Originally Posted by caleb View Post
    The message of the podcast is that autonomous vehicles might turn out to be a nightmare for people trying to use them to get around, so not exactly an endorsement from a transportation perspective.



    Yes, and I suspect if Gladwell's imagined world (he's actually cliffing it from an economist who wrote a game theory article about it, which he acknowledges) of pedestrians and cyclists retaking the roads ever came to pass, the police (who would no longer be needed to police traffic) would be turned on the pedestrians and cyclists to clear the way for car traffic.
    I am actually looking forward to this. I will perfect my NYC taxi swerve for my bicycle. (If you have driven in NYC, you have experienced the swerve.)
    I am also sure I will make lane splitting on my bike an art form.

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    Default Re: Malcolm Gladwell on the Implications of Self Driving Cars for Other Road Users

    We already have this here in Seattle. Pedestrians, with a rock-solid belief in the skills of drivers, routinely step out in front of fast-moving cars rather than wait 3 seconds for them to pass. I don't know whether this is an expression of self-superiority, foolishness, or a desire to mess with the drivers. Maybe all three. I ponder this as I test the braking limit of my bike to avoid kissing the bumper of the car ahead of me. They seem less inclined to step in front of solo cyclists but I sense a strong feeling of the Animal Farm concept of two legs good, four wheels bad.

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    Default Re: Malcolm Gladwell on the Implications of Self Driving Cars for Other Road Users

    Quote Originally Posted by 9tubes View Post
    We already have this here in Seattle. Pedestrians, with a rock-solid belief in the skills of drivers, routinely step out in front of fast-moving cars rather than wait 3 seconds for them to pass. I don't know whether this is an expression of self-superiority, foolishness, or a desire to mess with the drivers. Maybe all three. I ponder this as I test the braking limit of my bike to avoid kissing the bumper of the car ahead of me. They seem less inclined to step in front of solo cyclists but I sense a strong feeling of the Animal Farm concept of two legs good, four wheels bad.
    Re: self driving cars. I am not holding my breath for the vulnerable user legislation that would make those "advances" palatable. However, for suburban and exurban riders, self driving cars, assuming that that they are appropriately designed and programmed, will reduce crash frequency. Drunken dipshits watching screens vs vigilant automated systems? I know which I would choose as a suburban commuting cyclist.

    Best Regards,

    Will
    William M deRosset
    Fort Collins CO USA

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    Default Re: Malcolm Gladwell on the Implications of Self Driving Cars for Other Road Users

    Ha! I recall the words of Jeremy Clarkson when he said something like "I'm not worried about the ability of auto manufacturers to create a great self-driving car. I'm worried about Billy Bob who says 'Ah ain't gonna take this to duh dealer. Ah cun fix this right here in mah own driveway.' "

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