Or, it’s not a problem as vehicles shouldn’t be doing more than 20mph anyway, and so could react in time easily (as well as the fact they could and should be made of very different lightweight, softer materials.) Our conception of what driving is has to change; it’s absurd that vehicles should be moving quickly in built-up environments. The greater issue concerns reducing ‘vehicle miles travelled’ in the first place, and hence the speed by which things need to move, by shifting patterns of development so we live closer to where we work, play etc. That is where your starting premise feels right; this is not a five year challenge, at least in the USA and similar, but a 20 year shift. The issue isn’t the Trolley Problem, which is linked to an old idea of driving quickly, but rather concerns how we shift to mixed-use, medium density places, with their associated patterns of living that preference social interaction, good health, cleaner greener environments and quality of place over being able to drive long distances. The numerous and diverse benefits that would accrue from that shift make this entirely possible. That’s the real goal here. AVs could well be part of that shift – in fourth place behind walking, cycling and good mass transit, mopping up in the gaps – but seen in isolation, won’t really get us anywhere, ironically enough.

Designer, urbanist, etc. Director of Strategic Design at Vinnova, Swedish govt’s innovation agency. Visiting prof UCL Bartlett IIPP + Design Academy Eindhoven

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