Have you stopped to wonder why wealthy individuals like Kobe Bryant charter helicopters for travel instead of simply hopping in the family car? Many people began doing just that when they learned of the popular player’s death. His daughter and many others were killed in the same helicopter crash, adding to the outcry.
The answer to the question is simple, though: they wished to avoid the insanity of L.A. traffic. But the number of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents is also high, according to a year report for Vision Zero, a program aimed at reducing those deaths.
Last year marked the fourth year of Vision Zero, a program implemented in a number of U.S. cities. Vision Zero aims to reduce the growing number of traffic fatalities on city roads. But unfortunately, the numbers have diminished only slightly — but just in the last year.
For example, at least 244 people were killed in 2019. 134 of them were pedestrians walking, while 19 were riding bikes. While that marks a .8 percent overall decrease in traffic accident fatalities from the previous year, the gross number of fatalities has actually increased a whopping 33 percent since Vision Zero was first implemented in 2015.
The Vision Zero “Action Plan” says it is “dedicated to the many people — mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends, partners, husbands, wives, grandparents — who have lost their lives or sustained life-altering injuries on unincorporated County roadways. Thanks and appreciation to all those working together to ensure safe roadways.”
However, the dedication might not mean much to those who realize that the program has amounted to little, if any, progress.
Vision Zero’s biggest problem might be the broadness of its plan. There are few details provided. According to the Action Plan, city officials will first address health equity to “reduce gaps in health outcomes by addressing the practices that disadvantage some populations over others and lead to health inequities.”
Vision Zero attempts to target those areas where Los Angeles traffic accidents occur most often while informing the public of potential progress. Little other information is provided.
There is reason to be optimistic, however. But it has nothing to do with Vision Zero.
First, dedicated shared pathways for pedestrians and bikers are becoming more popular throughout the country. While wilderness paths are most popular, the number of bike paths crossing urban areas are on the rise as well. We can expect the trend to continue in the foreseeable future.
Creative traffic reduction initiatives are also being explored all over the country.
Software and hardware working in conjunction with one another is an almost universal addition to new cars. In Germany, for example, Audi implemented a system wherein vehicles coordinated with Wi-Fi traffic lights to provide drivers with an estimated speed they could use to avoid red lights. Such a system increases the flow of traffic, reducing congestion at lights. This tech is called vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I).
New traffic light technology will go further than that, though. Cameras at lights will begin to collect data via automated algorithms designed to study the flow of traffic and automatically adapt the timing of signals to further increase the flow of traffic. This is great news. After all, who doesn’t hate sitting at a red light when there are no other vehicles on the road?
The Internet of Things (IoT) connects these smart devices together, and its growth is exploding. If this trend continues, expect vehicles to adapt to changing traffic patterns in order to reduce time spent on the road. This includes vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) tech. Vehicles can already detect when they’re too close to objects. But imagine if your car could say to another car: “Buddy, get away from me.”
We can also expect autonomous (or driverless) cars to play a major role in reducing traffic accidents and pedestrian deaths. While Tesla’s autopilot program has recently come under fire due to accidents and fatalities while the software was activated, federal traffic reports show that a person using autopilot is still much less likely to be involved in a fatal accident than a person who isn’t using it at all.
Another side effect of driverless vehicles is “platooning.” The concept allows vehicles (that are in constant communication with one another) to stop or start in tandem, allowing those vehicles to drive much closer together. Platooning also results in near-seamless merging, starting up, or slowing down. If every vehicle on the road is automated, we would never again have to worry about the butterfly effect of a single driver tapping on his brakes on the highway!