Tuesday, August 22, 2023

The problem with driverless cars is the problem with our vehicle laws

 I was listening to the NYTimes podcast today, and the host was speaking with the writer about driverless taxis. They discussed trying and using one in San Francisco, where two companies have licenses.

Personally, I think if they can drive in San Francisco, they could probably driver in almost an city - bar New York city.

But what really strikes me is that one of the main complaints of the users is that the Waymo is way too slow. Not so much because it can't see things, but because it actually follows the laws. And our car laws are often stupid and overly exhaustive. So stupid that they are regular broken and the police do nothing because the laws cannot all be followed or the city comes to a stop.

For example, I was listening to the rider talk as the taxi went along. Her first comment to the other passenger was "so.. no California Rolling Stops?" followed less than 1 minute later by, "wow.. lots of stop signs here, right?"  See there are so many stop signs - a 4 way stop at nearly every cross street, that it takes forever to get anywhere. Hence the California Rolling Stop, in which you slow down way and if you see nothing, you just keep going. Highly illegal and universally used.

Then there was the crash of the autotaxi and a Fire Truck. Because the taxi stopped. Because, that is the law. But people don't stop, they pull over and slow down. In New York, they don't even pull over.

Last and finally, the autotaxi followed the speed limit. No one follows the speed limit. To be honest, the parade of ignored laws is one of the reasons the police can pull over anyone if they want. The speed limit in San Francisco is 20 mph. So even short trips at 20mph, and stopped at every street that doesn't have a stop light, it would take all day to get anywhere.

Speaking of how the police always have a reason to justify a stop... There was recently a black man thrown out of his car and beaten by police because he had an air-freshener hanging from his mirror. 

He was pulled over, asked out if his car. He asked what he did wrong, because he kept asking - and the police were annoyed, they cuffed him. He freaked out, so they hit and knocked him down. He tried to cover his face and so they beat and kicked him on the ground and accused him of resisting arrest. Body cameras caught all of this. He died later at the hospital. The police had to spend a week suspended (with pay). What was the murdered black guy guilty of, they stopped him because they could see the air freshener dangling.

Wow, that went off the deep end quick. All I basically was going to say is that using driverless cars shows how much overkill we have in our vehicle laws. And overkill breeds ignoring some of them to get around.

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