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Council wants to drive the future of driverless cars in Boston

Boston city councilors will study the implications of unleashing fleets of driverless cars on the mean streets of Boston - not just how they will fit in with all the Massholes out there but what the shift would mean for cab and ride-share drivers.

The council approved a request by Councilor Frank Baker (Dorchester) to organize a hearing on the topic. Baker said today that rapidly improving technologies and public interest will "quickly make self-driving cars the new norm." He said he wants one focus of any hearing to be how to "protect current members of Boston's workforce" who now drive medallion cabs and Uber and Lyft cars.

"One day, very likely not too far in the future, Uber's going to announce that they don't need to hire any drivers anymore," at-large Councilor Michelle Wu agreed. She added she wants to make sure Boston gets ahead of the technology to figure out how to ensure people share autonomous cars, rather than everybody going out and getting their own driverless whips and further congesting the local roads,

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I can't wait until all cars are driverless. Imagine no blocking the box, running red lights, asshole behavior in general...

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This is just not going to happen any time in the near future.

How is a driverless car going to deal with all the two-way residential streets that aren't two car-widths wide? How is it going to handle, say, Tremont St in the South End, where someone's double-parked every other block? Or the construction around Forest Hills?

Oh, also they don't work in the rain, or the snow, or when lanes aren't well-marked.

Driving in Boston is hard. It requires nearly continuous processing of non-standard situations and an understanding of what unexpected things other (human) drivers are trying to do. You can't make these things work without massive investments in infrastructure, which is money better spent on improving public transit.

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How will the AI interpret people standing near corners? Hanging out, waiting for the bus, or crosswalking pedestrians?

How will the AI interpret bicyclists, passing on left and right [typically both legal]?

How will the AI interpret Lyft and Uber and taxi vehicles all over the place?

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Algorithms!

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You need to remember that the only solution to the problems caused by technology is more technology.

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You underestimate how fast technology is advancing

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There will be no more drunk drivers to arrest, no speeders, no violators of any traffic laws.

Cops will not be needed except to investigate actual crimes.

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...driverless cars are programed to stop if they step in front of them is the moment all traffic at every corner of the city comes to a standstill.

And I'm sure there are plenty of people here who are thinking, "Hey, that's a great solution to getting rid of all the cars entirely!"

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First, I've seen some insanely brazen pedestrians even *with* drivers in cars.

Also, you're thinking very small. Pedestrians won't likely walk out in front of a vehicle that has no chance of stopping for them. That's suicide. Even autonomous vehicles can't beat inertia. BUT what if the vehicles talk to each other (not improbable) and what if they talk to pedestrians too. Even today's vehicles talk to pedestrians...via signals. Turn signals, flashing your headlights, using your horn, etc. The autonomous vehicle can even be given NEW indicators...like, say, a pedestrian warning light in the front. It would indicate whether it has any possibility/intention of stopping for a pedestrian when it's seen. If a pedestrian steps onto the curb and looks for the signal and see the right color/pattern, then they can step out. If they don't, they know the car doesn't see them and/or can't stop right now for some reason so they don't step out.

If all the cars are talking together and can crowdsource something like gridlock/traffic patterns, then they could already be deciding if it's safe to go slow enough for a pedestrian or if they need to move it because behind them it frees up space for other vehicles that need the road. Traffic signals could be done away with as the traffic itself determines the best needs of the system to keep everyone moving and pedestrians could cross anywhere as long as traffic acknowledges that it's perfectly safe to do so.

Here's an article on similar ideas:

https://medium.com/teague-labs/crossing-the-road-in-the-world-of-autonom...

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Can't we just improve trains instead?

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Because you can't sell trains to millions of people at 50k a pop.

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Suldog has "Thanksgiving comes first" and I have "they aren't ridesharing".

Maybe in some fantastical foregone fairy tale, the likes of Uber and Lyft were truly "sharing a ride"...but nobody driving around using the Uber/Lyft apps to find fares for themselves were just happening to go to the airport or to your house after a long night of drinking at the bar.

They aren't sharing their car with you...they're a cab without a medallion allowed through executive/law enforcement inaction. The only reason they're "going your way" is because you hired them to do so. The "sharing" economy exists almost exclusively in places like couchsurfing.com...and even there I'm sure there are "couches" being offered by some kind of conglomerate interest at this point.

Hubway isn't a "bike share"...it's a short term bike rental company.

AirBnB isn't "house sharing"...it's a short term house rentals organized by a listing company.

Lyft/Uber aren't "ridesharing"...they're unlicensed taxis organized by a listing company.

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That really depends on how you define "sharing economy". You're right that it has strayed from part of the original meaning. But if you view it as sharing a resource among multiple people that would otherwise sit idle, then it is still true: a car you own and use privately is idle most of the time, but an Uber car is in use most of the time. Likewise for hubway, AirBnb, or Zipcar. This results in fewer total resources needed for a given population. You can also view it as a marketplace where you can easily rent out something you own, which was formerly the domain of companies that own resources explicitly for renting. Now you can use your car for your own purposes some of the time, or rent it out some of the time, etc; it's mixed (shared) use.

I think these are almost all positive developments, both for the people involved and the environment. There is a case to be made that AirBnb has a negative impact on housing prices, but I don't think that is a condemnation of AirBnb itself; if the housing they're renting is housing they're temporarily not living in, then it is an increase in utilization and efficiency. The problem only arises when people buy/rent housing solely for the purpose of renting it on AirBnb. The only reason that is profitable is the same reason housing is so expensive in the first place: so many people want to come here. If we have enough supply to meet demand, that problem will go away.

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If Lyft was the Avis and not the Yellow Cab of car ownership you might have a point. If Uber didn't promo with Toyota to get people to buy a new RAV4 and have their Uber checks go straight to the dealer, you might have a point. If people weren't booking hotel rooms in advance of the Super Bowl in Minneapolis and then renting their MN home to people coming to town for the game but can't find a hotel room so they pay 5x the price on AirBnB to the person in a hotel for the week...you might have a point.

Coworking spaces are probably the closest thing to a sharing economy. Conference rooms, kitchens, phones, internet, community events, and more where no one person in the room could have easily afforded or maintained all of it without the others even though they have completely seperate goals. And even there, it's not that much different from managed office space which has been around forever.

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...come with knowing to beep as soon as light turns green, how to throw the middle finger, and how to incessantly curse at fellow Massholes, problem solved! Pfttt...Oh and will they be able to shovel snow and leave an ironing board? Do they have capability to slash tires of parking spot stealers in snow? Really? They are NOT for Boston and its bowl of spaghetti streets. Plz, enough!

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I don't know how fast driverless cars will arrive, and how they will deal with all of the real challenges listed in these comments.

But I do know that the City Council should TREAD VERY CAREFULLY given that:

- They don't understand the technology and generally move way too slowly to react
- We're supposed to be an innovative city. I suspect any rules the BCC will propose will be overly stifling and fail to keep up with a fast evolving industry.
- It's not like our current system is so great. Change might be stressful, but I suspect it will be for-the-better. And even if it's not, I have little faith that the BCC will anticipate the right problems.

I like our city councilors and know they try hard and work hard. But I simply can't picture them properly anticipating what regulation may be needed in 3 or 5 years or more.

Remember the panic over Segways taking over our sidewalks?

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How the City Council banned Segways from our sidewalks, after one tour operator kept running his yours on them?

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