Cars that drive themselves—where you can sit back, read a book, or even take a nap as you zoom down the highway and right into your favorite parking spot at work—seem like dreams of the future. Something we see in science fiction movies. Something like taking a vacation to the moon—someday, but not today, and probably not in our lifetimes.
Did you know self-driving cars have been around since the 1980s? And by 1995, tests of “robot vehicles” made by Mercedes-Benz were reaching speeds of over 105 mph on the Autobahn!
Closer to home, Google’s self-driving cars have driven over 1,500,000 miles. Last year, Uber began testing a self-driving car service in California. Earlier this month, Ford Motor pledged $1 billion to Argo AI, a new self-driving car company in Pennsylvania.
Here in Fort Collins, self-driving cars have not yet started roaming our streets. But when they do, we’ll probably find the biggest danger is not runaway cars or collisions with pedestrians. So far, the biggest danger with self-driving cars is their inability to accurately see and avoid crashing into… Bicycles!
And here in one of our country’s five Platinum-rated bicycle-friendly communities, where we bike to work 11 times more than the national average, where our K-8 students pedal to school 300% more than the national average, and where over 20,000 bikes descend on Old Town each September for Tour de Fat—we care about our bicycles.
In a recent comprehensive benchmarking study, self-driving cars identify bicycles only 59-74% of the time—compared to 89% for other cars. And these self-driving cars are using the Deep3DBox algorithm, developed by George Mason University and one of the best at helping self-driving cars spot, orient, and predict movements of other 3D objects. With most other algorithms, self-driving cars accurately see and react to bicycles even less often.
What does this mean for the future of our roads? Or, for the future of Fort Collins’s bicycling culture?
Here at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, you can explore our city’s long-running love of bikes and imagine what is next for our community. Come check out our bike collection, from a 1890/91 “fixie” to an official 2012 Fat Tire Cruiser. Come discover what happened in 1970, when three Fort Collins residents decided our city needed bike lanes and generated an 82-foot-long petition. Come pedal face-to-face with a pedaling skeleton, and much, much more! Ride your bike and receive a discount on admission!
And while you’re here, let us know—what will bicycling in Fort Collins look like in 10, 25, or even 100 years from now?
* “The Self-Driving Car’s Bicycle Problem” IEEE Spectrum, 1/2017
* “Uber admits to self-driving car ‘problem’ in bike lanes…” The Spectrum, 12/2016
* “Self-Driving Cars and Bikes: An Interview with Google” Bike Austin, 9/2015