In the future, will automobiles be given the right of way?

Pedestrians have always had the right of way when crossing the roadway, as far back as I can recall. If the driver is inattentive or drunk, a car’s hundreds of pounds of weight and ability may kill a person (or several people) in a minute or less. Yes, crossing in front of oncoming vehicles is unhealthy. You may compare it to the video game Frogger. More often than not, you lose. But who chooses if automobiles or people win? In almost every state, pedestrians have the right of way, and at crosswalks and traffic lights, vehicles must stop for them. Imagine if that were to alter.



Let’s take a brief trip back in time. According to Jalopnik, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) felt it would be a great idea to encourage people to avoid being struck by cars in order to recognize “National Pedestrian Safety Month.” Obviously, no? I’m confident that the promotion was a wise use of our tax funds. Today, Ford is filing a patent for an augmented reality software that will allow pedestrians to know if an autonomous vehicle will stop at the junction… or not… in order to avoid being struck. Seriously? The post continues by sharing the author’s opinions on a few topics with which I completely concur. First of all, it’s not particularly safe for people to be walking around while glued to their phones, and secondly, the app only serves to alert the pedestrian, not the driver. The car can let pedestrians know whether it intends to pass through an intersection, but it cannot be told to stop by a pedestrian. “Hey, I’m walking over here!”



My primary concern is always vehicle safety. The safety of pedestrians is an outgrowth of that. I must admit that I have never intentionally run over a pedestrian with my automobile, but I can only assume that the driver does not enjoy the experience either. But what if the driver is absent? Most likely, passengers will ride in those autonomous vehicles. If the car doesn’t stop, all kinds of pandemonium, such as crashes with other vehicles, bicycles, or people, could easily occur. It doesn’t seem like a good combination. Ford merely stated, “Ford is a leading automotive innovator and submits patents on new inventions as a normal course of business,” in response to the article. An interesting perspective on a technology that excludes the use of a vehicle.


According to Motor Trend magazine, consumer advocate Ralph Nader pleaded with the NHTSA to ban Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” software, adding yet another crucial perspective to the discussion. He thinks technology is developing more quickly than it ought to. He wrote in the piece, “No one is above the laws of manslaughter.” In a full statement that he provided, he added, “Americans must not be test dummies…”



As the proportion of driverless vehicles rises, our roads and highways will face numerous issues. Despite how absurd a concept it may appear, at least one manufacturer is considering it. There will undoubtedly be other developments that we haven’t even considered yet.



Of course, there are also mechanical and technological issues. How do you act if a wheel pops off while you’re riding (not driving; you’ll note I didn’t mention driving) in an autonomous car and you’re reading the paper or otherwise preoccupied while traveling at 70 mph on the freeway? Or do you also leave that to the car?



Autonomous vehicles are on the horizon thanks to the House of Representatives’ bipartisan efforts to advance the development and manufacturing of these vehicles. And they’re arriving as quickly as manufacturers can produce them and legislation can be passed.



They’re headed in that direction, and we may be powerless to stop them. I’m not sure if we should halt it, but I do believe that this area needs a controlled burn. Why are autonomous vehicles being pushed so quickly before the technology has been thoroughly tested? What’s at risk? might be the true question. Should we act as the human equivalent of the technological advancements that will mostly benefit a small minority of Americans? The ideal time to cross this street right now is to look both ways.

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