When will the light go green for autonomous cars?

Written by on May 24, 2016 in Opinion with 2 Comments
FreeImages.com/ Benjamin Turner

FreeImages.com/ Benjamin Turner

Let us hope that those people and companies who are investing billions in autonomous cars have a lot of patience. They will need it.

It may very well be that forward-looking regimes have given the green light to autonomous cars but this does not mean that they are just around the corner. The Regulator has yet to fully wrap his red tape around the concept and, without doubt, the nice people at Health and Safety haven’t even begun to put up their road blocks.

Some regulations are already in place, and are not very helpful. One such, in California – Google’s playground – says that the person who has the license needs to be in the car when it is being driven. This rather gets in the way of using it to drive the kids to school, while you enjoy a quiet coffee at home.

There are other barriers too.

Pot holes are a nightmare wherever you go. And while the autonomous car will be able to spot them, it may also be that if a car is coming in the opposite direction there is no choice but to drive into one. More concerning is the lack of road markings. This is a huge problem, even on major highways in the US, and caused the CEO of Volvo in the US to say rude things when he was hoping to show off his prototype at a large trade show. It also means that someone will need to invest billions more into the sensors and such that stop autonomous cars hitting things.

And, of course, there is the press. The moment that a self driving car is in an accident the press is all over it. This has already happened. A Google car was hit by a bus. No-one was hurt, there was very little damage, there was, basically, nothing to see. And global coverage (us, shamefully, included).

So, will the cars be ready before the environment? Will there be hundreds of thousands of autonomous cars sitting patiently in car parks all over the world?

Chris Evans, who many people in the UK wake up next to, has finished filming his first series of Top Gear. He and his team did a lot of research into driverless cars, gulping slightly at the sheer scale of investment in them and the number of companies doing the investing. He asked everyone whether he could borrow one, film one, talk to someone.

And the answer was no.

Anyway, as he said, and as Tony Poulos has also said, those who love driving will not want a car they cannot drive. And, of course, a perfectly good driverless car already exists and is hugely popular.

It is called a train.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


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  1. Bob says:

    I love driving too, but I don’t like driving in London THAT much, and I don’t like driving up the M6 in the pouring rain THAT much – etc. etc. … in fact, when I stop and think about it, there aren’t that many times and places these days when I really do like driving. For the rest, I can imagine being quite receptive to the idea of kicking back with my pipe and crossword and letting the car do the work.
    Personally I think this will come upon us in incremental steps over the next twenty years – increasingly automated cars (they can already parallel park themselves) on increasingly smart roads. More places for the car to do more by itself. Driverless taxis in urban conurbations. I think we’ll see a lot more autonomous vehicles in industrial environments too – harvesting fields, hauling timber in inhospitable conditions and so on. Increasingly doing the boring and predictable, then moving on to the more interesting stuff. Just like IT always does.

    • Alex Leslie says:

      I think you are probably right, but what will also happen, given the colossal level of investment and bet taking going on, is that some companies will go bust waiting for the revolution that happens very very very slowly.

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