10 questions on how bicyclists and pedestrians will interact with autonomous vehicles

Mobility Lab recently participated in a Twitter chat hosted by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center of the University of North Carolina.  It was a fun way to synthesize the latest thinking from other key players who took part, including America WalksSAE InternationalWalk Friendly Communities, the Vision Zero Network, the National Association of City Transportation Officials, the National Safety Council’s Road to Zero, and others.

PBIC compiled the top tweets here. Meanwhile, here were our answers to PBIC’s 10 burning questions.

Q1. What activities are you or your organization working on that relate to automated or connected vehicles?

Mobility Lab: On October 6, Mobility Lab is co-hosting a symposium on the policy implications of AVs for cities and regions. We have other speaking engagements and projects ongoing on AVs as well that we’ll discuss more soon.

We love AVs but are worried they’ll create car trips & break up communities if introduced incorrectly.

Q2. What are the most important ways that pedestrians and bicyclists might be impacted by more automated vehicles in the future?

Lots of work ahead on this: Why it’s so difficult for autonomous vehicles to see bikes.

If tech allows AVs to safely speed through mixed-use community centers and downtowns, the quality of life for people who bike and walk could go down.

Q3. How can engineers and designers prioritize people who bike and walk with the advancement of AVs?

AVs present an historic moment for planners, policymakers to rethink and redesign transportation mistakes of the past.

Priorities come in different forms. If you want engineers to learn to prioritize for bikers, you need to put them on a bike.

Here are 5 ways cities and counties can make sure autonomous vehicles and bikes mix safely.

Q4. Detecting people who bike and walk will be a key tech challenge. What can we do to help human and machine drivers detect them?

More AVs = More adaptive, real-time traffic signals monitoring the flow of people on bikes and foot. Imagine a world with no beg buttons?

Q5. The high cost of connected and automated tech may put it out of reach for certain groups. How can we ensure equity in AV benefits?

The U.S. could save $19 billion in annual healthcare costs if people with disabilities had access to AVs, according to Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE).

And one of our contributors finds that AVs will improve transportation options for older people and those with disabilities.

Q6. How can we encourage continued investment in active transportation and efficient public transit with the advancement of AVs?

To work, AV fleets must be plugged into existing infrastructure to enhance ability to ride transit and bikes and walk.

Q7. Laws on driver passing and yielding are often inconsistent and inadequate, but will likely guide AVs. What changes are needed?

Some people don’t use bikes because they’re scared of cars. But with safer AVs, that fear will start to go away and people will start biking.

Q8. What state or local policies are needed to foster safety and comfort for people who bike and walk while accommodating more automated vehicles?

Policy favoring people over cars is #1. That policy adds certainty so auto and tech companies and transit agencies have a way forward.

One of our contributor’s takes: Speedy adoption of AVs could be disastrous.

Q9. AVs will require and produce massive amounts of data. How can we leverage this to improve safety and mobility for people who bike and walk?

We must first envision what we want our city to be, then we adapt data and tech to fit. Not the other way around.

Here are three reasons AVs need your city’s data (and how to offer it).

Q10. How are AV developers forming meaningful partnerships with those in the bicycle and pedestrian community?

Good question. It seems conversations between AVs and transit/bike/pedestrian agencies have been absent. That needs to change and is key to all this.

What do you all think?