Aug 11, 2020 - Technology

Transportation official: Los Angeles is using driverless technology to improve pedestrian safety

Screenshot of Joann Mueller and Seleta Reynolds
Joann Muller (L) and Seleta Reynolds (R). Photo: Axios

Pedestrian safety sits at the forefront of planning for the adoption of autonomous vehicles in Los Angeles, the city's general manager of the Transportation Department, Seleta Reynolds, said on Tuesday during a virtual Axios event.

Catch up quick: Reynolds said that the lesson learned from working with auto manufacturers, software creators and USDOT for four to five years is "that we probably wouldn't be able to rely on [autonomous vehicles] to solve pedestrian safety, and instead, we would need to take those kinds of things back into our own hands."

What she's saying: Last year, an AAA report found that pedestrian detection systems and automatic braking systems on autonomous vehicles "did a really poor job of detecting adult pedestrians," Reynolds said. "And they failed almost completely in avoiding crashes with child pedestrians."

What's next: L.A. is working on a "proactive pedestrian detection" system around Metro Red Line subway stations, "where we have high numbers of people walking, and also high numbers of people getting injured and killed," Reynolds said.

  • Reynolds sees layering automation into buses as an opportunity to improve safety while freeing bus drivers to be "trained for more community functions," like assisting riders with disabilities, de-escalating conflicts and addressing medical emergencies.
  • "I don't know of very many companies that are actually focused on" using autonomy to solve "real problems" while retaining middle-class jobs, Reynolds said.

Watch the event.

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