The day may have come sooner than we expected, but the day of commuters being scooted around by self-driving cars is rapidly approaching us. Clocking 300,000 self-driven accident-free miles, Google’s fleet of autonomous vehicles are set to reach another milestone, as the technology company is about to give the go-ahead for employees to use the cars for commuting.
Traditionally driven with one person behind the wheel, and another in the passenger seat (presumably watching a screen of diagnostics), Google says that the results from its tests and track record have shown the two-rider system to be unnecessary, and will thus allow solitary trips in the self-driving vehicles. The idea of course behind the system is that a person becomes a passive driver, able to “be more productive” while in the vehicle, i.e. watching YouTube kitten videos.
While the dozen or so self-driving Google cars are unlikely to make a huge impact (no pun intended) on our local commutes here in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is a signaling of the changing times in our transportation system. For motorcyclists, this news should come as a mixed bag.
With our highway systems already a minefield full of distracted drivers, who are already busy sexting while in the car (or worse), the idea that the vehicle itself is at least paying better attention to the road than its driver should be seen as a positive move for our society.
However, with motorcycles being highly dynamic entities on the motorway, e.g. the rapid changes that motorcycles make to their lane-position, vehicle speed, and proximity to other vehicles, a commuting alongside motorcycles could pose a problem for automated systems — especially systems that interconnect vehicles to each other.
With Google’s self-driving cars already noted for having difficulties with temporary road signs, and snow covered roads, there has to be at least a question mark as to how its automated fleet handles motorcycles. Californians, just think about lane-sharing for a minute. Yeah…ok.
If there are any Googlers in the A&R audience drop me a line. I think we all would be curious to hear how these cars handle driving alongside our preferred two-wheeled form of transportation.