Paris had a cabby training school in 1898

700-Yard Course With Cutouts To Simulate Real Road Conditions

Researchers and developers are now working on the ethics of autonomous cars (whom to save when an accident is inevitable?) although human drivers remain intractable. But attempts have long been made to make drivers handle their vehicles better. About 120 years ago, Paris had a system in place to train drivers of its newfangled electric cabs.

The city built a long practice course with cutouts placed haphazardly to simulate the chaotic conditions on its streets. It even had an artificial hill.

That early concern for traffic safety has not made France’s roads the safest in Europe (it is way behind UK) but it is incomparably better than India. In 2015, it had 7.6 road fatalities per 100,000 motor vehicles to UK’s 5.1 and 130.1 in India.

A report from March 1899:

A great deal has been written lately in the popular magazines as to the methods adopted by the owners of the Parisian electric-cabs to teach their drivers to control their vehicles under the varying and troublesome conditions of traffic in the public streets of Paris. The daily newspapers have also devoted space to the matter on several occasions.

The first journal to take notice of this matter in England was Industries and Iron, and subsequently, in November 1898, an illustrated and full account of the methods adopted was given. An illustrated description would now prove of little service, but it may be mentioned that the schooling track is 700 yards in length, is paved in sections with every road paving to be found in Paris, has several gradients and one heavy “rompe” or hill — of course, artificially made.

Over the length of the “course” are distributed various figures of men on cycles, girls wheeling perambulators, etc, all formed in sheet iron, and calculated to imitate the usual erratic road-crossing of Parisians. The pupil-driver’s duty is to steer clear of these obstacles, and also avoid other pupils endeavouring to do the same.

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