Driverless cars (autonomous vehicles)

Image courtesy of Automobile Italia

From page 91 onwards of volume 24.1 of the World Transport Policy and Practice (March 2018), Professor John Whitelegg reviews Christian Wolmar’s book, “Driverless Cars: On a road to no-where.” Whitelegg is the visiting Professor of Sustainable Transport at Liverpool John Moores University and Professor of Sustainable Development at University of York’s Stockholm Environment Institute. Wolmar is a writer and broadcaster specialising in transport.

In his book, Wolmar claims that our streets, roads and cities would have to be re-organised to make them friendly for driverless cars and to stop pedestrians and cyclists getting in their way. He quotes former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn who in 2017 said, “One of the biggest problems (for driverless cars) is people with bicycles. The car is confused by [cyclists] because from time to time they behave like pedestrians and from time to time they behave like cars.” Wolmar also claims that whereas the case for driverless cars is strengthened by the untested, evidence-free assumption that they would produce safer roads, they still take up space and move at speeds that kill children.

In his review of Wolmar’s book, Whitelegg concludes: “It is very clear indeed that the new technology on offer is a very simple extension of a very old technology and a deepening of a very old ideology. It is all about making us all even more car dependent, transforming cities so that they give top priority to cars and eliminate any obstacles to that prioritisation which will include making absolutely sure that pedestrians and cyclists are not allowed to get in the way. It is a rejection of several decades of intelligent and ethical thinking that has been going on to make our cities and regions safe, secure, clean, green, healthy, child-friendly places. It is a rejection of Copenhagen’s success in getting 50% of all trips every day for work and education accomplished by bike, a rejection of Freiburg’s achievements on modal split (<30% of all trips every day by car), a rejection of Oslo’s car free strategy, a rejection of wide-area congestion charging."

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