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Live, on-road autonomous vehicle testing -- using everyday Americans as human guinea pigs.

https://www.driving.co.uk/news/waymo-first-operate-driverless-cars-public-roads/  Photograph: Shows a driverless Waymo vehicle on a busy street.

https://www.driving.co.uk/news/waymo-first-operate-driverless-cars-public-roads/

Photograph: Shows a driverless Waymo vehicle on a busy street.

Will self-driving cars replace human drivers?

Probably someday.  Sooner rather than later.  But hopefully for those of us who love cars, we’ll continue to have the option of driving ourselves, in addition to having our car or truck drive us around.

However, until that day, self-driving cars are going to be dangerous to be around.  They are being tested in real-world driving scenarios in California, Arizona and now Connecticut, and no one seems to think that’s a problem.  Perhaps because the companies developing these cars are so big, powerful and wealthy they can bend the various state Departments of Motor Vehicles to their will?

You and I try driving without our car inspected, or with even a taillight or headlight out, and we’re going to be pulled over and given an expensive ticket for violation of the state’s Vehicle and Traffic Law for operating an unsafe vehicle.

Uber?  Google?  Tesla?  GM?  Volvo?  They get to put self-driving, “autonomous” vehicles on real streets and highways for testing purposes, in California and Arizona especially -- to measure, practice and learn in real-life situations, in live traffic with speeding vehicles weighing tons -- and that’s absolutely okay. 

They’re practicing on humans.

Anyone have a problem with that?  Do you consent to Uber or Google’s autonomous vehicles being on the highway with you, or while you’re crossing the street as a pedestrian, or dropping your children off at school?   

I have a problem with that.  I do not and did not consent to being part of this dangerous experiment.

Just ask the family of Elaine Herzberg, age 49, who was killed by a self-driving Uber Volvo XC-90 SUV while she was crossing the street as a pedestrian walking her bicycle in Tempe, Arizona, on March 18, 2018.  The Uber Volvo was traveling 40 m.p.h. when it hit Ms. Herzberg as she was in the pedestrian crosswalk:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/19/technology/uber-driverless-fatality.html

In point of fact, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has identified 66 collisions involving autonomous test vehicles in that state as of April 18, 2018:

https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/vr/autonomous/autonomousveh_ol316

Despite that, however -- and believe it or not -- California just dropped the requirement to have human safety drivers inside the autonomous test cars while experiments continue.  That’s right, as of April 2, 2018, fifty (50) companies testing autonomous vehicles in California no longer have to have a human in the driver’s seat in case of emergency avoidance:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/26/technology/driverless-cars-california-rules.html

And, in the deadly arms race between California and Arizona for the lucrative autonomous vehicle business -- and before Ms. Herzberg was killed – in March of 2018, Arizona announced it would no longer require a safety driver behind the wheel of autonomous vehicles being tested in that state either:

https://www.engadget.com/2018/03/02/arizona-no-safety-drivers-autonomous-vehicles/

After the collision which killed Ms. Herzberg and in response to that collision, the CEO of Google-owned Waymo boasted that its cars had superior intelligence and ability, and would have avoided hitting the woman as she crossed the street:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alanohnsman/2018/03/24/waymo-ceo-on-uber-crash-our-self-driving-car-would-have-avoided-pedestrian/#56f8f8051dbb

Do you find that comforting?  Reassuring?

Arizona is trying to lure lucrative autonomous vehicle design and development away from California.  And now Connecticut wants to get into the game in this experimental race to the bottom.  The Governor of Connecticut, Daniel P. Malloy, just stated the following when announcing that Connecticut will allow its citizens to become live targets for autonomous vehicle testing:

"These vehicles are going to be part of our lives soon and we want to take proactive steps to have our state be at the forefront of this innovative technology.  We are showing this industry and those around the country that we promote the development of these kinds of forward-thinking, technology-driven products in Connecticut.  We cannot allow our state to be outpaced as this technology grows."

See: http://www.thedrive.com/tech/20215/connecticut-may-be-the-next-state-to-allow-self-driving-car-tests

Governor Malloy’s message to Google, Uber, GM, Lyft, etc.:  Connecticut is open for business.  Even if you run over and potentially kill a few of our own citizens.

Once again, money over safety.  Big business over human lives.

I spend every day of my professional career working to ensure people follow the safety rules of the road and avoid injuries.  Explain to me how autonomous, self-driving vehicles, while still in the experimental stages of development and capable of killing real, live, non-consenting innocent people, should be allowed to travel on public roads using us as guinea pigs. 

And state governments are enthusiastically encouraging it to happen. 

James Snyder