14 Nov 2016

Will Driverless Cars Have an Impact on Cyclists?

As driverless cars grow in popularity, what impact will this have on other road users, in particular, cyclists?

In recent times, bikes have been seen as a way of reducing your carbon footprint, as well as traffic congestion at busy times of day.

However, it is yet to be seen how cyclists will react to riding on the roads with self-driving vehicles. While the manufacturers and supporters of driverless cars suggest that they would reduce the risk of accidents which involve human error, as vulnerable road users, cyclists may have concerns about sharing the roads with robotic vehicles.

As a safety measure, Google’s driverless cars have been taught to recognise the hand signals of cyclists, and Tesla cars have been programmed to avoid cyclists in high-risk situations.

Professor of Transport Engineering at the University of West of England, John Parkin, countered the concerns of cyclists on sharing the road with self-driving vehicles, stating in the Financial Times that currently, much infrastructure is being added to roads to keep bikes and vehicles apart that might not be needed in the future.

Interestingly, the very safety measure which may mean that cars and bikes can be closer together – the fact that they are programmed to break automatically if something crosses their path – may cause havoc on the roads.

Adrian Lord, associate director at transport consultancy Phil Jones Associates, said: “Once people realise that an autonomous vehicle will stop [automatically], will pedestrians and cyclists deliberately take advantage and step out or cycle in front of them?

“If that is the case, how long would such a vehicle take to drive down Oxford Street or any other busy urban high street?”

Could the introduction of driverless cars also lead to an increase in the number of cars on the road, due to the fact that operators may not require a driving licence to operate them?

Only time will tell how cyclists and driverless cars will co-exist on Britain’s roads, and whether the effects on Britain’s cyclists will be positive or negative.

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