Will Driverless Cars Mean Less Roadkill?

“If it looks like a pedestrian, it will be treated like a pedestrian,” says Aaron Steinfeld, a researcher and robotics engineer at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Steinfeld, who has worked on the development of autonomous vehicles since 1998, says sensors now being used on driverless cars pick up information in different ways. Some, for instance, can provide information about an object’s surface—whether it is hard and likely made of metal, glass and steel, or soft and presumably made of fur, clothing and flesh. Any large, soft object will be treated like a pedestrian. Much of the talk is about how driverless cars could transform urban areas thick with pedestrians. But how will they stand to benefit those traveling at highway speeds on rural roads routinely crossed by moose, deer and wild pigs?