Today, a woman lost her life on Mill Avenue after being struck by a self-driving car operated by Uber, the ride sharing company.
I don’t know that there’s a lot of people looking for the opinion of a taxicab driver on this matter – but this literally happened in my back yard.
Headlines read, “Self-Driving Uber Car Kills Arizona Pedestrian” but what you don’t know from this is that it happened on Mill Ave. From what I understand, this woman was struck when crossing the road near Marquee Theater – if you’re not familiar, it’s across the Tempe Town Lake from the Mill strip.
Uber, and ride sharing companies like it, do take some of the profit of us professional drivers and have for some years now. It’s not surprising: after all, it’s not like people couldn’t drive themselves before taxis became a thing. We are what we are.
The future of self-driving cars is still a way off, so I’m not afraid of losing my job to that either.
For a long time now, I thought that these cars were extremely safe. They seemed to be much more aware of the road and changing conditions than meatbag drivers at least. In fact, many times they were in the news it wasn’t because a self-driving car hit someone: it was because someone hit a self-driving car. Often because that car was being too cautious.
I really have not thought about how driving aggressively has sometimes kept me safe from being in an accident. But, after years of being on the road, breathing exhaust and staring at taillights, I have a certain sense of other drivers and an intuition of how they’re likely to behave at certain times of day.
I have been sharing the road with self-driving cars for a while now. No problems.
I am sure there’s a lot to figure out about these robot cars.
Mill Ave has a lot of pedestrian traffic. At certain times of day, there are so many people walking on the sidewalks and crossing the streets it can feel like Mardi Gras – and sometimes it is Mardi Gras. People don’t always obey traffic laws, in fact sometimes it feels like nobody obeys traffic laws. They will be crossing against traffic, not in crosswalks, wandering into the road.
These robot cars will need to account for that and not hit people who are acting unexpectedly. As I just said, Tempe is a hotbed of unexpected actions.
As a result of this tragedy, Uber has suspended its testing of self-driving cars here in Tempe.
Probably a good start. If you’re going to put new cars on our roads that affect people, you better get them right.
This is Vex, out. See you on the road.
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