Self Driving Cars and Bicycle Safety

This week the US House of Representatives unanimously passed HR 3388 to amend Title 49 "regarding the authority of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) over highly automated vehicles, to provide safety measures for such vehicles." The full text of the resolution is here. So what? 

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Self-driving cars are not coming, they're here. The technology is going to revolutionize the way that we human beings move things, not just people but all types of cargo. That will be great for commerce and society as a whole because it will reduce vehicle collisions and increase the efficiency of transport. The question we need to ask is, will this new technology be able to share existing roads with other modes of transit?

While the news media is conflicted about whether or not these new cars will be safe for bikes and pedestrians (some articles are hopeful others are not), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers described in February the difficulty of developing automated vehicle technology that can identify and react to a nearby pedestrian or bicycle. Some experts believe that bikes may have to "talk" to driverless cars in order to be safe.  But is that the cyclists' responsibility? What if they forget to charge their transmitter?

Missing from the House resolution are two very telling words. "Bicycle" and "Pedestrian" appear a total of ZERO times in the full text of the resolution. The legislators missed a very important opportunity to explicitly direct the NHTSA to make certain that cyclists and pedestrians will be protected with any implementation of the new technology.

You may find and write to your representative here: