How Should Robotaxis Save Idiots From Themselves?

The more driverless robotaxis are on the road in cities – and they already are in San Francisco, Phoenix/Chandler, Austin and now Los Angeles – the more disturbing a phenomenon appears that initially seemed anecdotal but now seems to be occurring more frequently. Back in 2016, Chris Urmson, then head of development at Waymo, showed videos of self-driving car encounters. The two scenes in the following video first show a man rolling over the hood of the self-driving car, then a naked man also jumping in front of the car.

Cruise, too, couldn’t help but make a montage of such encounters and set it to music:

While we were all still willing to let these be humorous, one-off events, more and more worrying and not harmless incidents are now happening. And we only know this because Cruise founder and CEO Kyle Vogt has increasingly been sharing such concerning events on social media in recent weeks.

In the following example, you can see how a woman unexpectedly jumps onto the road and lands in front of a turning Cruise. The latter reacts quickly and comes to a full stop, but it is obvious that the woman neither wanted to cross the road nor had been pushed onto the road, but aimed to provoke the vehicle with full intention and jumped onto the road immediately in front of the robotaxi.

In another video, a man is seen suddenly jumping out from between two cars and landing on the road in front of Cruise, forcing it to brake sharply.

Also in the next example, a man coming from the right sprints in front of the car and forces it to slow down.

In the video below, we notice how a man endangers not only himself but also his dog by jumping from the left directly in front of the Cruise.

And here two idiots run in front of the car at once. Note that the Cruise has the green light, the woman and the man do not and only had the intention to provoke the Cruise.

Maneuvers by other cars like this one, which dangerously take Cruise’s right of way, seem comparatively “normal.”

The question that comes up after the first one – which is, “What the Fuck?” – is, “How should we deal with it?” Vehicles are definitely not to blame for this behavior of humans, and thanks to technology, these crazies are still alive. If they had jumped in front of cars with human drivers in this way, some of them would not have come out of the situation unscathed. Also, it is no pleasure for the passengers when the car has to abruptly apply full braking just to protect the idiots on the road.

And what if something really happens? I can already see the public blaming the robotaxis, even though they can’t help it and didn’t provoke such behavior. The laws of physics apply whether a human or computer is driving the car.

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In my 2019 book, The Last New Driver’s License Is Already Been Born (an updated translation from my 2017 German version), I already write about similar phenomena. Other road users, and by that I meant mainly cars with people at the wheel, take the right of way from robot cabs or behave aggressively toward them. What was still rather theoretical at the time was later confirmed by newspaper reports. The Phoenix New Times, among others, had a report of motorists trying to force the robotaxis off the road or following them in an obtrusive manner. I, too, experienced someone throwing a plastic bottle at our Cruise in one of my rides in San Francisco.

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L’automobile telle qu’on la connaît va disparaître. L’intelligence artificielle, la voiture électrique, la voiture autonome et l’économie du partage sont en voie de révolutionner l’industrie automobile au cours de la prochaine décennie. Cette révolution technico-économique affectera tous les domaines, pas seulement celui de l’automobile. Le dernier titulaire d’un permis de conduire est déjà né révèle les technologies perturbatrices qui prennent forme actuellement et propose une chronologie du moment où elles s’imposeront. L’auteur, chercheur en technologie, communique sa vision de l’industrie automobile de demain et l’impact sur les emplois notamment dans l’industrie automobile et pétrolière, l’environnement, les sciences, l’urbanisme, les hôpitaux, les services policiers et la sécurité, la politique, les lois, l’hôtellerie et la restauration, l’immobilier, l’économie mondiale et la société en général. Des dizaines de milliers d’emplois seront supprimés définitivement dans plusieurs domaines, mais la nouvelle économie en produira deux fois plus selon les experts. Découvrez comment ces bouleversements dans le monde des transports, notamment les robotaxis, affecteront vos vies, votre budget et comment vous y préparer, et pourquoi c’est une bonne chose.

Already today there are laws that define such actions as shown in the videos as clear coercion, which are accompanied by fines and even jail time. We just need to realize that these are not trivial offenses and can have serious consequences for the passengers, the vehicles and especially the idiots. However, it is only a matter of time before the laws of physics cannot be overcome even by the most well programmed robotaxis and someone will come to harm if we continue to tolerate such behavior from some idiots.

This article was also published in German.

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