Editorial – Ban self-driving cars now before more deaths occur

Mac Olsen

It was an avoidable tragedy, and the death of a pedestrian at the hands of a self-driving car should sound the alarm bells – and it’s time to ban them worldwide.

Last week, there was a report of a woman in Phoenix, Arizona, who died because a self-driving vehicle, owned by Uber, hit her. Besides Phoenix, the company has self-driving vehicles operating in Toronto, Pittsburgh and San Fransisco.

Uber said it suspended operations of its vehicles and was co-operating with law enforcement to determine how the incident occurred. The company also offered its condolences to the victim’s family.

Regardless of Uber’s pronouncements, this tragedy should be a wake-up call for the world, and a universal ban should be imposed on ALL self-driving vehicles. Permanently and for all time. No exceptions.

I have made no secret of my concern about self-driving vehicles. I wrote about this subject last year, when Ford Motor Company in the U.S. announced that it was testing self-driving pizza delivery vehicles.

I said then that I don’t trust vehicles that operate under their own control. I had concerns that they could cause collisions, injuries and deaths and the tragedy in Phoenix has proven my point.

Now, people can say that one incident between a self-driving car and a pedestrian isn’t cause for concern. Or that far more people die from drunk driving collisions than will be killed by self-driving cars in a given year.

To that I would say, if, one day, a self-driving commercial transport were to cause untold numbers of deaths and injuries on a busy street or highway, will you shrug that off too?

That’s the direction that the self-driving transportation industry is going in. And that’s why self-driving vehicles have to be banned now, on a world-wide basis, before they become too much of a presence – and a threat to human safety.

I can make the same arguments for air passenger service. No airplanes or jets related to civilian air travel should be designed as totally automated, with no pilot at the controls.

Automation has taken on a greater role in civilian air transportation, that is a given. But human pilots and human decision-making still have to be kept in the loop.

The only other form of transportation that causes me concern is light rapid transit, or LRT. I’ve ridden on the fully-automated SkyTrain in Vancouver and didn’t have an issue with initially.

But now I’m less inclined to use an LRT service like that because I’m concerned there could be a major malfunction with that, too.

I won’t call for an outright ban on all automated delivery services, such as those provided by unmanned aerial vehicles.

Those devices are subject to human control and human decision making processes. I also agree with UAVs that target and take out threats like terrorists. Human intelligence, decision making and control are in place for them. And humans are held accountable if something tragic occurs.

But my concerns about self-driving vehicles stand. They cannot be trusted, as the tragedy in Phoenix, Arizona has demonstrated.


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