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Concerns raised about self-driving cars, bicycles sharing the streets

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(Michael Ares/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) published an article on its blog Thursday highlighting the potential dangers cyclists may encounter when biking around self-driving cars.

Post author and SFBC Executive Director Brian Wiedenmeier says he attended a demonstration on Uber’s self-driving cars, and noticed a number of “shortcomings” in the way the cars drove on the streets.

“In the ride I took through the streets of SoMa on Monday, the autonomous vehicle in “self-driving” mode as well as the one in front of it took an unsafe right-hook-style turn through a bike lane,” Wiedenmeier said. “Twice.”

right-turn-step-2-cropped

This type of right hook is one that creates almost unavoidable collisions between cyclists and cars. It “is known to be one of the primary causes of collisions between cars and people who bike resulting in serious injury or fatality,” Wiedenmeier states, and is also part of the curriculum that SFBC uses to educate professional drivers, including those who work for Uber.

“I told staff from Uber’s policy and engineering teams about the safety hazards of their autonomous vehicle technology,” he said. “They told me they would work on it. Then, two days later, they unleashed that technology on San Francisco’s streets.”

For now, Uber has been asked to pause any self-driving car activity while they apply for the correct permits from the DMV. But Wiedenmeier’s concern does raise the issue of how cars trained to drive automatically on San Francisco’s streets will react to cyclists sharing the road.

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has released a petition asking for Uber to remedy the right hook problem before releasing driverless cars back onto the streets.

SEE RELATED: Uber offered self-driving rides to state lawmakers days before illegal SF launch

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