Feb 6, 2019

How to make roads safer for AVs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

No matter how much developers test AVs, the world will still present unforeseen circumstances for vehicles to navigate. Researchers and policymakers want to mitigate these risks by making roadways more accommodating of mistakes.

The big picture: Road safety policy can help offset these challenges and better plan for AV deployment, particularly the Safe System approach that originated as part of Sweden's 1997 Vision Zero initiative. Countries that have implemented similar policies have seen declines in traffic fatalities, and others could follow their models.

Background: Real-world road accidents from 2018 illustrate the surprising variety of "unknown unknowns" vehicles encounter: a 20-fatality limo crash in New York caused by poor road design and vehicle maintenance; a speeding car launched off a raised median into a second-story office in California; and an Oregon roadway made slippery by a truck spill of 7,500 pounds of slime eels.

Details: The Safe System approach focuses on three intersecting tenets: Road safety is a shared responsibility; transportation initiatives are based on both experience and anticipated problems; and AV systems, like human drivers, are fallible.

How it works: Roadways and vehicle design can be modified to be more forgiving of mistakes and AV system shortcomings.

  • Enhanced lane divisions to prevent head-on collisions
  • Traffic-calming devices like roundabouts
  • Rumble strips to keep drivers in their lanes
  • Lower speed limits and alerts when those limits are exceeded
  • Structures to minimize lethality of crashes inside the vehicle (strengthened roof and chassis) and outside (safer designs for guardrails)

The bottom line: A roadway designed to accommodate human error, whether the human is behind a steering wheel or behind a computer, could better protect motorists, and the AVs that may soon populate it.

Laura Fraade-Blanar is an adjunct researcher at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 1,475,976 — Total deaths: 86,979 — Total recoveries: 317,372Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 404,352 — Total deaths: 13,829 — Total recoveries: 22,775Map.
  3. States latest: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order allowing New Yorkers to vote by absentee ballot for June 23 primaries.
  4. Federal government latest: The U.S. has begun to see "glimmers of hope" despite its highest recorded number of deaths in 24 hours, Dr. Anthony Fauci said.
  5. World updates: WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries should put politics aside "if you don’t want to have many more body bags.”
  6. 🎧 Podcast: The battle over billionaire coronavirus saviors
  7. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

The coronavirus pandemic threatens low-wage jobs

As many as one-third of U.S. jobs are at risk of disappearing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and it will disproportionately displace low-income workers that do not have the financial cushion to absorb the economic blow.

Why it matters: The dire economic ramifications of the national shut-down stand to devastate those that can least afford it. Nearly 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment claims in recent weeks.

Coronavirus prompting historic drop in air travel and jet fuel demand

Air travel — and the jet fuel powering it — are plummeting alongside most other parts of our modern economy as vast swaths of the world shut down to fight the coronavirus.

Go deeperArrow45 mins ago - Health