The future pedestrian among self-driving cars.

How many times have you crossed the street today?
Did you look at your phone while crossing?
Did you make eye contact with the drivers to ensure that they see you?

Street-crossing has become a typical point of the day which no one really pays attention to. It is a necessary but quite an easy task, especially if done with respect to the traffic rules. In the future, it will very likely change, and it is not clear in what way. The future is believed to be autonomous – self-driving cars on the streets, blooming of the ride-sharing economy, no car ownership, less traffic. Autonomous car manufacturers compete every day to deliver a better version of a driverless vehicle, with test cars already on the streets.

It is only when investigating the matter further that the negative nuances come into play and make the future of transportation look only somewhat promising. Operations of the very specific piece of technology – autonomous vehicles – are full of uncertainties, especially from the pedestrian point of view. Self-driving cars are an example of an artificial intelligence system which is prone to algorithmic errors and lacks the human intuition – so often crucial on the road. What is more, people’s excitement about not having to sit behind the wheel in the future is often mixed with a sense of danger and fear for life. Humans are afraid of what they do not understand, which is exactly the case – people do not understand the cars and the cars do not understand them.
This project attempts to dive deep into the future of London streets and suggest a way of street-crossing around self-driving cars. It seeks to develop a concept for a future service which would increase pedestrian safety, reduce their fears and prepare them for interactions with self-driving cars. As this dissertation is in fact a speculative design scenario, rather than proposing a highly feasible solution for current times, its primary aim is to provoke thoughts and discussions over the question ‘is this a future we want?’. – Text and images Alicja Halbryt.

This work was submitted by Alicja Halbryt. The opinions and conclusions expressed in it do not necessarily constitute those of the Future Based platform. All rights reserved to the author. Get in touch with Alicja here.

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