Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Rough Roads for the Robots, Amtrak Train Day - Newsbits

Not quite there yet
In some media or another you probably saw the news that the self-driving cars are not yet able to avoid 100% of crashes.

Things are still early, of course, but the lack of reporting and candor about the failures, however small, is concerning.

Things are certain to get better - but how much better? It seems impossible that a perfect condition of 100% crash avoidance will be attainable. But it does seem possible that the robot overlords will offer a significant improvement over humans - whom as we have noted before, aren't wired even to avoid tripping on sidewalks, let alone wired to avoid making the occasional error in judgement or attention on the road behind the much more powerful automobile.

Will the robot cars obey prudent speeds (which may be slower than currently posted speeds) or will they take advantage of the enhanced software and analysis and get hotwired to zoom and speed?

The fundamental problem of the car, and its equation of mass x acceleration = force, itself remains.

More broadly, even apart from crash-level safety, there are good reasons to remain skeptical about the value of the self-driving car and about the autoist paradigm of mobility.

Last month in the Sunday magazine, the New York Times noted that
Most city planners now see the era of the car’s urban supremacy as a brief, misguided phase in city culture. Rather than competing with suburbs, cities are capitalizing on their own traditional strengths, recognizing pedestrians as arguably their most economically invigorating (not to mention energy-efficient) form of traffic.
That is one of the central claims of the blog here. That hydraulic autoism is a limited and misguided phase, and that the sooner we ditch it, the healthier our cities will be, not just big ones like New York, but also much smaller ones like Salem.

Also! Train Day with Amtrak - postponed

From Amtrak:
All Aboard Salem! On Saturday, May 16th, celebrate Amtrak Train Days at the Riverfront Park from 10am-4pm. During the event, explore the Amtrak Exhibit Train, engaging guests about the company’s past, present and future. Amtrak will also be showcasing the Amtrak Experience, a dynamic exhibit that allows attendees to see, hear, and feel the benefits of train travel through interactive elements and informative graphics. For the youngest rail fans, stop off at Chuggington Kids Depot, featuring toy train and coloring tables. All Amtrak activities are free! There’s something that’s bound to strike a chord for everyone! Join us on this very special day to experience why Trains Matter.

For additional details on the Exhibit Train Tour, please visit the Exhibit Train page.
The Exhibit Train must be on a truck rather than conveyed by the rails. For it seems unlikely the Oregon Electric/Portland & Western tracks would be tied up for so many hours. That's too bad, because it would have been neat to see a passenger train on those tracks! Still, while we struggle to fund passenger rail adequately as a meaningful alternative to driving I-5 for commuting or for pleasure, this could be a good kind of public relations and lobbying.


Anonymous said...

Rough Roads for Train Day, too.

Amtrak tweets the event has been postponed -


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thanks for the update.