As someone who (perhaps unwisely), likes to bike around New York, I’ve long looked forward to driverless cars. They can’t drive drunk. They won’t drive like reckless teenagers. They won’t threaten to beat me up for ringing my bell (true story).
Even better: they’ll be able to see and avoid me even on a dark and stormy night.
Or so I thought.
As it turns out, bicycles could slow driverless vehicle deployment. Case in point: Holland, land of bicycles.
According to a recent KPMG report, the Netherlands is the country most prepared for autonomous vehicles. The country is actively working to begin autonomous truck platooning on highways; a legal framework has been developed for testing AVs on public roads without a driver; and the country is even preparing a drivers license for AVs.
But whether AVs will ever operate in Holland’s cities is an open question. Because, as an executive quoted in the report put it, “We have a lot of bicycles.” That’s an understatement. According to The Guardian, there are an estimated 22.5 million bicycles for a population of 17 million people.
And unfortunately, as the article notes, bicyclists are unpredictable: “the varying sizes and agility of cyclists, with their sudden changes in speed and loose adherence to the rules of the road, present a major challenge to the [AV] existing technology.”
Such a major challenge, in fact, that KPMG suggests forgetting about ever integrating AVs into a bicycle-heavy environment: just keep AVs and bicyclists separated entirely.
We don’t have as many bicyclists in New York. The city estimates somewhere in the ballpark of 1.5 million casual riders. But that’s probably enough cycling on our already-crowded, dilapidated streets to put a hold on my dream of a safe, driverless vehicle future. (AVs in Phoenix, meanwhile, have an entirely different problem…)
In the meantime, you would do well to wear a helmet and stop texting!