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Wilt: The importance of pedestrian safety


Thank you for the coverage of the importance of pedestrian safety last week. Like many in our community of Paradise Valley, I was devastated to read about the car accident that took John Wintersteen’s and Nooralay (Aly) Lalji’s lives in January. While I didn’t know Aly personally, we are both fathers of three and our children attend the same school.

Just this week, I found out that a student I coached in volleyball when I was in grad school was killed by a drunk driver while she was out for a walk. Her name was Eliza Grover. I was shocked by both of these events, and they reminded me that road safety is an issue that can affect anyone, even those in our own communities.

I work for a company called Waymo that builds and operates autonomous cars. Our first deployment was here in the Valley in Chandler, and we’ve since expanded to Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe. At Wamyo, safety is core and comes first. We recently partnered with SwissRe, a leading reinsurer, who showed that Waymo had 100% fewer bodily injury claims and 76% fewer property damage claims than human drivers over 7.1 million driverless miles. Another independent 2024 study from UC Berkeley showed that Waymo crash rates were safer than several human benchmarks.

Speaking for myself, in my job, I’ve become increasingly passionate and conscious of road safety. I believe in a vision for the future where drivers don’t get distracted, drowsy, or drunk, don’t speed, can perceive in all directions at all times, and react with superhuman reflexes. I am motivated and working hard to make this vision a reality today on our roads here in the Phoenix area. I want to live in a world where my kids ride their bikes and I walk my dog without fear of becoming one of the 40,000 Americans that die in car accidents every year. I’m hopeful that when they grow up, that might be the case, and that I’ve played a small role in making that a reality. 

Reader reactions, pro or con, are welcomed at AzOpinions@iniusa.org.