Why Car-to-Bike Safety Communications Won’t Solve Safety

Why Car-to-Bike Safety Communications Won't Solve Safety

This nicely thought out article by David Zipper breaks down the problems with C-V2X: in this case using direct wireless messaging connectivity between cars and bikes to warn of potential collisions. https://www.fastcompany.com/90801870/audis-new-technology-is-designed-to-keep-bikers-safe-it-wont

Might the technology help? Sure it might help some, but it will just as surely not be a complete solution. In a complex world it is possible the net outcome will be worse than other approaches (not because of the technology per se, but because of the complexities).

While it is great to see innovation to improve safety we need to be mindful of these pitfalls:

Equity issues: Not everyone can afford or will want to burden themselves with a C-V2X transponder. (Not everyone has a high-end cell phone, and not everyone wants one even if they can afford it.) This burdens other road users rather than owners of expensive cars.Potential for risk homeostasis: If the transponders get reliable, will that teach drivers not to look for vulnerable road users if they don’t hear a transponder warning?Victim blaming: What if someone says a kid walking to school deserved to die because they should have known to not let the battery run out on their cell phone/transponder? Or that parents should have bought their 7-year-old a smart phone to keep them safe.Allocation of societal resources: There is only so much attention and funding available. Arguably it would be a better net outcome to make roads inherently safer rather than spend those resources on C-V2X.In short, this sounds like a high-tech version of “pedestrians should wear bright colors so they don’t get hit by drivers who are not paying close enough attention.” Which often shows up as an “education” message that displaces solving deeper systemic safety issues. (Might wearing a bright yellow rain coat help? Sure, that’s what I do. But proposing that to deflect attention from deeper systemic issues is a problem.)

It is important to avoid running afoul of evergreen research advice by Prof. Mary Shaw, which I’ll paraphrase as: if your idea only works if everyone in the whole industry adopts it, then you need a different idea.