Uber suspends self-driving car tests, Arts District rail, Cynthia Nixon: HWR, March 20

Self-driving Uber kills pedestrian in Arizona, where robots roam (NYT)

Exclusive: Tempe police chief says early probe shows no fault by Uber (S.F. Chronicle)

The Arizona Republic reports the car was going about 40 mph, apparently didn’t slow down and struck the woman in Tempe. The S.F. Chronicle says the car was going 38 mph in a 35 mph zone and quotes the Tempe police chief as saying the collision would have been difficult to avoid. The Chronicle also reports the woman had stepped from a median into the street about 100 yards from a crosswalk.

Car manufacturers and those who see a bright future from autonomous vehicles have been promoting safety as their chief virtue. Thus, it remains to be seen how the self-driving car’s software — and the person behind the wheel — didn’t ‘see’ or sense the woman in its peripheral vision. Whether the woman was in a crosswalk or not strikes me as somewhat besides the point if the technology is as good as advertised by its proponents.

The NYT story focuses on a piecemeal “regulatory environment” for self-driving cars. Excerpt:

Some states, like Arizona, have taken a lenient approach to regulation. Arizona officials wanted to lure companies working on self-driving technology out of neighboring California, where regulators had been less receptive.

But regulators in California and elsewhere have become more accommodating lately. In April, California is expected to follow Arizona’s lead and allow companies to test cars without a person in the driver’s seat.

Federal policymakers have also considered a lighter touch. A Senate bill, if passed, would free autonomous-car makers from some existing safety standards and pre-empt states from creating their own vehicle safety laws. Similar legislation has been passed in the House. The Senate version has passed a committee vote but hasn’t reached a full floor vote.

Look…I can see some potential pluses for self-driving cars — safety (perhaps one day) and providing mobility to those who can’t or don’t want to drive. But I remain pretty skeptical about much of this effort and it’s fairly obvious Uber is involved as a way to eliminate labor costs.

I thought this article in Wired, which noted the nearly 40,000 traffic deaths in the U.S. each year, also asked a potent question:

But human drivers kill just 1.16 people for every 100 million miles driven. Waymo and Uber and all the rest combined are nowhere near covering that kind of distance, and they’ve already killed one.

Your thoughts? Just to add to the mix: a post on Biking in L.A. on a bicyclist being run over and killed by a Fed Ex driver in Los Angeles.

New Metro line could pass through Arts District (Downtown News) 

Click to see larger version.

A look at the new and existing potential routes to be further studied for the West Santa Ana Branch Corridor project that proposes to build light rail between Artesia and downtown L.A. The story focuses on option H. Excerpt:

Alignment H is the most unique of the options. Terminating at Sixth Street, just east of Santa Fe Avenue, it calls for the site to also be serviced by Metro’s Red and Purple lines as part of a spur through the Division 20 rail yard.

Arts District denizens have long been clamoring for Metro to build a station that takes advantage of existing track, but in recent months there appeared to be little feasibility. At a meeting of the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum in November, Metro CEO Phil Washington expressed support for the plan in concept, but said there was no money, and the project would not happen “unless manna falls from heaven.”

Cornejo said that if that alignment H is ultimately selected, it would be funded through Measures R and M, although exact costs are still being determined on all of the route options.

Stay tuned on this one. Two questions to be answered is how much transferring would these different routes require and where folks along the line in the southeast part of the county most want to go — Union Station or the downtown core.

One clarification to the Downtown News story: a final decision on a route is not being made this spring. Rather, Metro staff is going to the Metro Board in May for a decision on which of the Northern Alignment concepts should be carried forward into the project’s environmental study. It will likely be more than one and less than the full eight.

Cynthia Nixon enters race for New York governor (NYT)

The Gotham-based actress and a political novice — best known for playing Miranda on “Sex and the City” — is going to make fixing the New York MTA and the subway a big part of her campaign.

How the subway talk plays in the Elmira, Seneca Falls and Altonas of the world remains to be seen.

14 replies

  1. Is the map in the article an update from Metro on potential routes? If so, it appears that a 5th/Flower infill terminus for WSAB is not being considered.

    The map implies an 8th/Flower terminus. One could assume an underground passageway to presumably crowded 7th/Metro. In this case, a Pershing Square terminus is probably better.

    • Hi Steve –

      Correct — this is a new map. The previous map had a dot near 5th/Flower with smaller type underneath saying exact station locations were to be determined. Folks focused on the dot and not the small print (understandably). So this map is better and clarifies things. Check out the video of recent community meeting and they talk about the station locations, etc. http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/113600184

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. Regarding the Uber/pedestrian accident, everyone is speculating ahead of information. With the data, I’m assuming, is available from a self-driving vehicle, we should have solid answers once the investigation is completed.

    One thought though: if an accident involving a self-driving vehicle could not have been avoided, if a person was controlling the vehicle, but could have been avoided if the self-driving vehicle had additional technology available in other self-driving vehicles, could the owner or manufacturer of the self-driving vehicle be charged or sued for something like negligence?

    And Steve, why would Uber looking to lower labor costs be attached with your statement of “I remain pretty skeptical” about self-driving cars? Seems like a pretty rational motivation for a for profit company to pursue research. Especially when labor costs are likely Uber’s number one expense item.

  3. It seems ridiculous to run the WSAB on the same tracks as the blue line for ANY amount of distance. Pacific Blvd / Santa Fe and the areas further east are far more conducive to ridership, connecting places that transit riders would want to be (Huntington Park) or need to be (jobs in Vernon) in lower income communities that are more likely to take transit.

    The separate tracks could open the doors for better land utilization surrounding stations. Where large scale developments can transform the area into a more comprehensive neighborhood. The same cannot be done along Long Beach Blvd because the land is so fragmented into smaller parcels and the fear of displacement among residents would draw opposition.

    • All of the proposed alignments are routed through Huntington Park. None of them are proposed to share tracks with the Blue Line. From what I’ve seen the proposal is an elevated viaduct next to the Blue Line.

      • I meant shared ROW, just seems like spreading them out would yield a lot more Transit adjacent land that could be better utilized to support the metro system

  4. Steve is correct that “how much transferring would these different routes require” is an important question. Whatever alignment is chosen for WSAB, there should be a direct connection between that alignment and each of the other rail lines serving DTLA, i.e. Red, Purple, North-South (Long Beach/Foothill), and East-West (Santa Monica/Eastside). We don’t want to design another line that eventually needs another Regional Connector. All of the proposed alignments on the graphic appear to provide transfers to the Red, Purple and North-South lines, but not to the East-West Line.

  5. Perhaps Alignment E would make the most sense once the Regional Connector is online. It would facilitate making the hop from Union Station to East LA on the new Gold Line a touch faster.

  6. Agree on Pershing , 7th/Flower even with the Regional Connector will still be busy. Pershing would have capacity for transfers and then hopefully, one day , the in-fill station at 5th/flower gets built and THEN allows the WSAB to continue west under the Harbor Freeway and turns north up towards Echo Park or Silver Lake areas.

  7. Alignment G makes the most sense as it can serve the lower historic core. The one to 8th and flower is the best for direct transfers to all lines given the unfortunate lack of plans for a 5th/flower station although crowding at 7th/metro could be a problem as has been pointed out. If such an alignment is chosen, moving walkways could be installed for the ped tunnel connection to 7th/metro assuming the station box is aligned east/west. Either variant of G would still make it fairly simple to eventually extend the line to echo park/silver lake and onto either Glendale or a santa monica blvd. alignment or both.

    Somewhat related:

    Regarding light rail speed: 65 – 70 mph operation should be the standard wherever the track alignment is straight enough and doesn’t cross streets at grade or stops at stations. WSAB should be able to accommodate this as well as for example the gold line from lake station eastward wherever possible. DART in Dallas (and perhaps several other systems) do this just fine and the trains simply slow down from 65 to 55 when approaching at-grade crossings. Unfortunately for LA metro it seems the track quality (this may not be accurate) is only built for 55 on all LRT except the green line which is perplexing especially given many other suitable alignments. So please upgrade the track to green line quality wherever possible and make this the, ahem, “gold” standard for all new LRT lines.

    On LRT train lengths: Metro perhaps should start considering adding station platform capacity for 4 car trains where there is room. WSAB would be good since there doesn’t appear to be any street running sections (nice!) and perhaps the crenshaw line could and should accommodate this given that Slauson is the only street running station and appears to have enough room and given the line’s probability for being extended north to the denser core of mid LA and the Hollywoods (street running here would just be silly).

    • I’m wondering how they’d make the walkway/tunnel work for the connection between the 8th Street station and 7thMetro. It would probably have to be under Hope as light rail already goes under Flower. A station entrance at 8th and Hope might be easier to build.

      • Yeah it would probably have to be under hope, not a big deal though as such a tunnel could just be connected to existing passageways at the Bloc and/or the current hope st entrance. I would think a station portal at 8th/hope would also be in the plans for passengers who don’t need to transfer. The cost would be worth it and plus most modern systems around the world have these kinds of setups.