(This one is a bit of a rant…you have been warned)
Let’s start off with a statement I believe to be 100% true: NO ‘self driving’ car will EVER be as safe on the road as an aware, alert, fully rested, sober human driver.
The problem is that a lot of people, with more money than sense, have staked large amounts of dosh and reputation on developing self driving vehicles.
So I have some predictions about what the next few years may bring:
- They will fix some individual, very specific, issues these vehicles currently have (being unable to recognise some advertising billboards, ignoring certain pedestrians and cyclists as if they were invisible, not sensing white trucks as actual things to be avoided, raindrops etc…) but NOT the underlying errors that cause those issues.
- They will continue to contribute to politicians campaign funds and line the pockets of lawmakers in order to get permission for their cars to use public highways.
- Most insidious of all…they will ensure there are enough loopholes in the new laws we will need to govern the use of self driving cars that it will be the drivers, passengers, other car drivers and passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, horse-riders, pets and children who are killed and injured, who will be blamed for it.
The law already victim-blames in cases of assault, insurance claims, police shootings etc, so I don’t see any reason why the extremely rich self driving car manufacturers will end up having to take any responsibility for their products.
I really hope I’m wrong about this, but experience seems to show that money talks, rich people don’t have to abide by the same laws as the rest of us and lawmakers don’t have any real reason to prosecute manufacturers. There will always be more consumers willing to buy more stuff, no matter how many people it kills, so why worry? (Looking at you, tobacco industry/big pharma/fast food joints).
One final, ranty, note – Tesla are now adding features that watch to make sure the ‘driver‘ is actually IN the driving seat, watching the road and AWAKE. A word of advice from me…if your car cannot actually safely drive itself, how about you stop naming one of its features an ‘autopilot’.
(For those who have managed to slog all the way to the bottom of this rant, my solution would be to take all the money currently being spent developing self driving cars, that will inevitable kill more people, and instead spend it on fixing our public transportation. Clean, reliable, safe buses, trams and trains would reduce pollution, reduce food deserts, put more money back into normal working peoples pockets and would benefit communities rather than super-rich individuals…but then, I always have been a sunny optimist…)
3 Comments Add yours
I enjoyed reading that. I’m way more optimistic that you though. I think humans are not capable of creating artificial intelligence that is smart enough to be a safe driver but money will still get them on to our roads and they will kill lots of their drivers and other road users, as they have already started to. However, I think the media will be obsessed with reporting every incident in minute detail and the manufacturers will eventually get the blame, after years of trying to wriggle out of it. Look at the attention paid to every SMART motorway incident in the UK and the Volkswagon emission cheating scandal (diesel dupe) in the US. Although that was down to one rogue VW software developer I’ve been told. I think no more than two or three million people will die before self-driving cars are limited to 15 miles an hour.
Well said, the logic of driverless cars is flawed, simply because most cars are driven by humans who are random in behaviour both in life and on the road. You cannot computerise the actions of idiotic drivers and that is the driverless cars downfall.
I’m all for public transportation. Family didn’t have car until I was a teen. Lived in NYC. Didn’t need one. Which I realize makes me unusual in the US. Once I moved to suburbs, got interested in wheels pronto.