Self-driving technology is still not widely available, but companies like Amazon are trying to change that. In order to develop their autonomous car technology, however, these firms need to have their vehicles tested. After Amazon announced it would be using downtown Seattle as testing grounds for its self-driving technology firm Zoox, transportation-safety advocates expressed concern. Following a string of accidents and near-misses, they worry that the company’s technology testing would put the safety of Seattle residents at risk.
According to Mike McGinn, the director of the pedestrian advocacy group America Walks, the company’s self-driving technology has yet to demonstrate it is able to slow down and stop at signs of danger. To McGinn, who is the former mayor of Seattle, the technology is not yet ready to coexist with pedestrians and bikes in an urban environment.
In interviews with major news outlets, Zoox co-founder reassured the public that all precautions are being taken and that the company is following all regulations imposed by Washington state officials. Additionally, the firm has announced that it has obtained all regulatory approvals to initiate the project, and that a driver will be present in the car at all times, monitoring the vehicle and taking over “if assistance is required.”
Self-Driving Technology Linked To Serious Accidents — Is Seattle Ready?
While autonomous car enthusiasts continue to claim that removing the human element from the driving experience is the key to reducing a major risk factor for traffic accidents, the reality is that companies that have been working on self-driving technology for the past decade have yet to deliver on their promises.
In 2018, a self-driving Uber vehicle was involved in a deadly pedestrian accident in Arizona, which happened during a test drive. Waymo’s autonomous car system was involved in at least 18 accidents in the period between 2019 and the first nine months of 2020 during their testing phase also in Arizona. Additionally, 29 near-misses were also reported. In all such cases, human drivers had to intervene to avoid collisions. Recently, Tesla was under scrutiny after a video showing a Tesla vehicle operating under the beta autopilot mode careening towards pedestrians surfaced online.
Until the technology is properly developed, safety advocates argue, companies such as Zoox are putting pedestrians’ safety at risk.
“They’re using pedestrians as guinea pigs in an experiment that can be deadly,” said Angie Schmitt, the author of “Right of Way,” a book about pedestrian deaths.
For more on what safety advocates are saying about autonomous car technology, follow this link.