Driver-less Cars: A Problem Coming to a Town Near You

Although trolly problems have attracted a lot of attention, the AV industry has generally avoided comment or been dismissive. When a Daimler AG executive allegedly took a side this fall — reportedly telling Car and Driver that Mercedes-Benz AV would protect passenger at all costs — the company issued a strong denial, saying “it is clear that neither programmers nor automated systems are entitled to weigh the value of human lives.” Daimler added that trolly problems weren’t really an issue, as the company “focuses on completely avoiding dilemma situation by, for example, implementing a risk-avoiding operating strategy.”

As we enter the New Year we are all interested in the development of autonomous and connected vehicles. It’s important that we keep in mind that traffic incidents will continue to be part of everyday life for the foreseeable future no matter how fast these autonomous technologies are deployed. Public safety personnel will continue to respond to incidents along limited access highways and all types of roadways to tend to the injured, trapped and simply disoriented people involved in those incidents. Fire departments will still respond to vehicle fires and hazmat incidents. Police will still have to complete reports and investigations for all types of crashes, and tow operators will be kept busy removing those damaged vehicles from the roadways. Transportation personnel, especially safety service patrols, will still be exposed to traffic on a daily basis in all kinds of weather and traffic conditions. Let’s not forget the safety of those responders who have to operate in dangerous roadway environments around moving traffic.

As you plan and look forward to attending your various project and committee meetings in 2017 please remember to advocate for emergency responders as it relates to autonomous vehicles and their reaction to traffic incident scenes. Look for ways to promote connected vehicle technology that will surely help to inform motorists of approaching emergency vehicles responding to incidents and provide warning about responders working at incidents ahead. We are all in a unique position to help influence the development and implementation of these complicated technologies. I hope you’ll join me in our quest to make traffic incident management safer for all parties concerned.

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