Saturday, February 20, 2016

We're Less Threatening

Which, I guess, is good.
Autonomous cars will also, I believe, behave in a way that defers to pedestrians. Walkers will likely not have to look both ways when they cross a street.
That’s already happening in Ann Arbor, a city with a heavy penetration of Toyota’s Prius fuel-sipping hybrid. I’ve seen these Prius’ non-autonomous cars behave the way I expect future self-driving cars to behave: Their drivers are anticipating and sensing the intents of pedestrians and slowing down. It’s almost as if the Prius drivers don’t want to scare pedestrians, much less hit them. These drivers are behaving like Google cars promise to.I used to believe this type of Prius driver behavior was a plea for approval, an apology for commuting: “I’m sorry for polluting. Forgive me for using foreign oil.”
But lately in Ann Arbor (among other college towns around the country) I’ve noticed that folks driving Priuses seem to be apologizing for our history of turning pedestrians into second-class citizens.
By driving their Prius’ in a less-threatening way, I’m sensing that Ann Arborites seem to be exaggerating behaviors as an anticipation that road use is about to change in a profound way: Cars won’t bully their way through town, they’ll blend in.