Jean-Louis Gassée on the “hiccuping coexistence” of pedestrians and cars

Jean-Louis Gassée, Monday Note:

Imagine the 1 pm Sunday scene with crowded sidewalks and sticky car traffic. In today’s world, pedestrians and drivers manage a peaceful if hiccuping coexistence. Through eye contact, nods, hand signals, and, yes, courteous restraint, pedestrians decide to sometimes forfeit their right-of-way and let a few cars come through. On the whole, drivers are equally patient and polite.

That’s the current picture. But with self-driving cars, what then?

Can we “algorithmicize” eye contact and stuttering restraint? Can an SD car acknowledge a pedestrian’s nod, or negotiate “turning rights” with a conventional vehicle?

No, we can’t. And we don’t appear to have a path to overcome such “mundane” challenges.

Great post by Jean-Louis, per usual. Read the whole thing.



  • Caleb Hightower

    This should make NYC very interesting, if not more annoying.

  • Brandon

    I think the answer to this is pretty simple. Autonomous vehicles will always yield to pedestrians, no matter the situation. Safety is the number one priority and autonomous vehicle should (or more likely, will) always err on the side of caution.

    The real question is, how do we keep pedestrians from taking advantage of the situation? Especially in congested areas where it could create a significant problem.

    • Drivers are also supposed to yield to pedestrians in virtually all circumstances (the question is whether the pedestrian should get a ticket… not if they should get hit). Pedestrians generally don’t take advantage of this, and I don’t really see that changing for many, many years.

  • On a slightly related note, Norman Foster was recenetly asked whether or not he had any regrets in regard to his Apple Park design. I believe he said he had just one: that he didn’t design the garage(s) to be readily repurposed as work spaces once autonomous cars illiminate the need for parking.