I was recently reading this article in MCN and it got me thinking; is there something more sinister looming on the horizon, portent to us bikers in particular?
In summary: “The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that we could see self-driving cars on UK roads by the end of 2021, leading to renewed concerns for motorcycle safety.”
Now this all is just my opinion, and there are definitely some improvements going on in this field (as shown at the bottom of the article).
However, I believe the root cause of the potential safety issues here will boil down to laziness.
“…currently there have been no assurances any of the new technologies will cope with the unexpected appearance of a motorcycle.” – Karen Cole, MCIA Director of Road Safety and Rider Training.
Laziness is not good for the road, and while we can all fall victim to it – bikers included – this situation feels like something that could have a bigger impact
If you recall Clarkson’s Ford special on the Grand Tour, he remarked how Ford changed the British class system with their badging policy.
What I think awaits us then, if not handled correctly, is another significant change, though not one of the class system, but rather ‘who’ you are as a road user.
I say this, because:
1) Manufacturers know that motorbikes exist, but don’t appear to have given us much weight in their systems so far.
2) Some people are inherently lazy, and vehicles can magnify this.
We’ve all seen (maybe even done it) somebody using their hazard lights to park anywhere, do anything, or just simply excuse themselves from any rules-of-the-road breaking behaviour.
I get it; sometimes there is just nowhere to park, but it’s become the norm to just lazily hit the hazards and let everyone else deal with it.
The thing is, as bikers, we won’t be able to deal with your car not recognising us – your choice has now potentially become my risk, and more so than ever.
There is also no incentive to be a better road user in these situations, because if you’re tired after work, why not just let the car do all the work?
If manufacturers don’t step up, I worry that this will only get worse. It could encourage people to completely switch off their consideration of others, because they’ll assume the tech will do it all for them, yet as we saw in MCN, that doesn’t appear to be the case.
To already be ignoring certain people on the road, manufacturers could be setting a dangerous precedent; one where we’ll have an evolution of the ‘park-anywhere-button’ behaviour.
What if you simply can’t be arsed to focus on driving? Why not just hit another button?
People might engage ‘self-driving’ not out of need, but pure laziness, and the ‘I’ in SMIDSY will just become ‘it’.