Unlike the European Transport safety Council, I do not believe Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) and Automated Emergency Braking (AEB) systems will make our streets safer. Rather they are predatory delay to redesigning our streets.
This approach is regressively putting pedestrian and cyclist safety into the hands of the automobile manufacturers. By keeping pedestrians in a passive position, it merely aims to do ‘the wrong thing better’. This is a dangerous distraction from the physical redesign and re-purposing of space. It is playing into the hands of the car lobby.
‘The truth is cities are not doing nearly enough to restore streets for pedestrian use, and its the pedestrians who should be furious.’ Opinion ‘The Pedestrian Strikes Back’ – NY Times
Apportioning well-being and safety of pedestrians to car manufacturers does not work. A prime example of this is the dieselgate scandal , where car lobby claims of ‘clean diesel’ has lead to dangerous illegal emissions across Europe.
Conversely safer street design has consistently worked, prioritising pedestrians and cyclists, as seen in Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Stockholm. Road safety has been achieved, not through questionable tech, but through putting time, money and resources into redesign of public space and reallocating quality space for walking and cycling.
Automation of logic has not been possible
Firstly I must place Intelligent speed Assistance and Automated Emergency Braking in the context of the desire to automate logic.
Professor Erol Gelenbe of Imperial College has told Christian Wolmar and myself that ‘Automation of logic has not been possible, complexity boundaries were reached.’
This means the tech is fundamentally flawed. It is algorithmically unaccountable and even the engineers can’t keep track of what is going on inside the black box. It is not fit for purpose.
Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA)
‘Intelligent speed assistance works by using traffic sign recognition and GPS map data to help drivers stick to the legal speed limit. The system can be overridden and the driver remains in control at all times.’
Passive systems simply warn the driver of travelling at excess speed. Meanwhile active systems intervene and automatically correct the vehicles speed. Although most systems allow the driver to override the ISA.
One of the major cases against this tech, is that drivers get confused and don’t know whether to be passive or active in their responsibility for a two ton metal box. KSIs (Killed and seriously injured numbers) have risen significantly since ISA and AEB have been more widespread in new cars, from 2015. One wonders if this driver confusion is one of the main causes?
Speed limiters can also be disabled, tuned, tampered with , hacked or just simply ignored. The limiters used in BMW and Mercedes cars, which can be removed by nearly anyone with a computer these days, as evidenced by the multitude of ads in the back of motoring magazines offering to do just that.
Another flaw is that sensors don’t work well in weather such as rain or snow. The tech is unreliable in ‘weather’.
Both active and passive ISA systems can serve as on board vehicle data recording, (this is possibly the real reason car manufacturers are so keen, more on this later)
Automated Emergency Braking (AEB)
Autonomous emergency braking, known as AEB, is a collision avoidance system which engages the main braking system in automobiles when it detects an imminent collision
One of the most disturbing articles I have read on Automated Brakes is that the engineers ‘tuned’ the brakes, to make the ride in the car smoother, by ignoring pedestrian and cyclists. Again automated brakes can be overridden, disabled, tuned and hacked. And like dieselgate are algorithmically unaccountable.
Data Harvesting and Mass Surveillance
‘Ford’s CEO just said on NPR that the future of profitability for the company is all the data from its 100 million vehicles (and the people in them) they’ll be able to monetize. Capitalism & surveillance capitalism are becoming increasingly indistinguishable (and frightening)’ – Kevin Bankston Twitter
Welcome to The Age of surveillance Capitalism. Many believe this is the real reason for the push for ISA and AEB.
Mass surveillance by Governmental organisations are often carried out by corporations. It is the single, most indicative distinguishing feature of totalitarian regimes.
Autonomous vehicles use terrific amounts of power to run their onboard sensors and do all the calculations needed to analyse the world and make driving decisions. The computer vision kit is a power sink.
There are 20-100 computers on one Autonomous Vehicle. And 20-60 computers in current cars with ISA and AEB, on our roads now. Add on radar, sensors, cameras and data processing and you have an energy vulture
The hidden energy consumed in externally hosted data centres is not available, but also adds to the high energy consumption.
We need to rapidly cut energy consumption to meet sustainable renewables. However total per capita energy demand is increasing faster than renewable energy sources are added. This hinders that vital transition to low energy low carbon transport.
Targeting walking and cycling advocates to legitimise tech
One of the tactics, used by the car lobby, is to co-opt charities and grass roots campaigners to neutralise any opposition. The car lobby specifically targets pedestrian, cycling or safety campaigns to legitimise tech.
The current AV marketing approach claims Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Vehicle inevitability. But we must be aware that ‘They are coming’ and ‘We can’t stop it’ are marketing techniques. They present an AI /AV bias that is not based on facts.