"Why Self-Driving Cars Aren't Coming Any Time Soon" podcast episode

The Factually! podcast did an episode on self-driving cars last month that seems mighty pertinent to many discussions I see on Bikeportland:

The title of the episode serves unsurprisingly as a tl;dl


Thanks for the recommendation. I hope it’s better than Malcolm Gladwell’s recent podcast on automated vehicles, which suggested that they will be the solution to every woe that ails urban traffic.


The industry got giddy over 2 features, just TWO! Adaptive cruise control and lane keeping. Put together, it “feels” like the car’s driving itself but that’s under very narrow circumstances. The devil’s in the details.

I’m all for developing more driver aids but calling them “auto pilot” and “full self driving” when they are nothing of the sort is simply criminal. It gives consumers the feeling that they’re buying more than they are actually getting. Not only are they getting swindled but the rest of us are paying the price for this with the risk introduced into the transportation system.

I realized that autonomous tech was in trouble when several years ago the industry started discussing higher resolution mapping. In other words, when real time onboard autonomy begins to fail, the fallback was going to be the computer cheating via a map lookup. Now, even that’s not sufficient. We simply can’t get there with the tech at hand. This will require a breakthrough that has yet to arrive and predicting something like that is like predicting a roulette wheel. Good luck but use your own money and keep my health and the safety of my family out of this.


More proof that regulation is always needed to protect the public from corporate greed and dishonesty. Europe had no problem telling Tesla that they are not allowed to call it “self-driving” (because it isn’t), but they still get away with it here because they put an asterisk and some fine print in the advertising. Fuck that.


thanks for the suggestion.

One thing I think about a lot is how so many local planners and consultants and transpo agency staffers jumped onto the “automated driving” bandwagon and spent tons of time and capacity on it. I wonder if folks realize that PBOT has a whole plan adopted for automated vehicles. Like, I get it’s good to plan ahead for stuff, but at what opportunity cost to follow this shiny object when we have so many more pressing matters! /rant


I think the reason was that PBOT was so early in automated driving policy was to get ahead of the situation. Ride hailing apps moved faster than Portland, or most other jurisdictions could craft policy, and they had massive impacts on the way that people get around before any rules or regulations could be established. The potential down side of automation is much larger than the considerable down sides of ride hailing, in terms of safety, climate impacts, and allocation of public space. PBOT wasn’t trying to encourage automated cars on the streets, they were trying to be ready to forestall the potential negative consequences before they became a problem, while allowing for controlled trials and innovation in closed and safe locations.


Yes I agree. My point is that I feel like they got way too excited for the potential of automated vehicles and spent more time than needed on the planning for something that never came to pass. It continues the culture of sooo much planning at PBOT when the pace of change and implementation on our streets just chugs along.

Yeah, too much planning. Not much implementation. I feel you on that.

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