Cars, bikes, and safety technology

The Internet sometimes provides interesting pairs of news items.  Today's pair concerns an intersection between mobility, safety, and technology.

Spiros Tsantilas of NewAtlas writes about concerns that Tesla's Autopilot mode does not recognize bikes or motorbikes very well.  On July 27, a Tesla with Autopilot engaged rear-ended a motorbike on a Norwegian road, seriously injuring the motorcyclist.  Motorcycle clubs in Norway and elsewhere have made a formal complaint that Tesla's Autopilot does not do an adequate job of detecting two wheeled vehicles.  (See also my recent post on bike reflectors that enlarge a bike's profile on car radar units.)

Critics speculate that the Autopilot mode was not trained on two wheeled vehicles, or trained enough, and so does not perceive them well enough to behave safely around them.

Tesla as not responded specifically to these claims but has announced that every Tesla model sold in future will include the equipment necessary to run its Autopilot mode.

Kurt Kohlstedt writes for 99%invisible about the "Dutch reach".  This term refers to the regular Dutch practise of having drivers use their right arms to open their doors.  The point of this technique is to orient the driver's face towards the street outside the door.  Thus, if a cyclist happens to be passing by, the driver should be aware of this and not open the door in front of the cyclist, which would cause a type of collision common enough to merit the name "dooring."

This pair of articles is interesting because each concerns bike safety in the presence of cars.  However, the news about Tesla emphasizes how the application of a technology—Autopilot in this case—may fail to protect bikes on the roadway.

The Dutch Reach story emphasizes the role of technique—the manner in which technology is used—rather than technology itself in road safety for bikes. 

As such, the stories remind us that both technology and technique shape the kinds of risks that we face on the roadway and elsewhere.

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