Is the era of driving really coming to an end?

January 10, 2019 0 By NatalieM

Driverless cars are coming – but maybe not as quickly as we’ve been expecting.

An article published on the BBC news website today suggests that the steering wheel might be here for a little while longer.

Author Justin Rowlatt describes a post he wrote last October, in which he suggested that we might all have bought our last cars, as “wildly optimistic”.

It wouldn’t be the first time that over-optimistic predictions about driverless cars have been made. This 1971 film predicted that driverless “robot cars” could be in everyday use by the year 2000!

I am not enthusiastic about the advent of driverless cars. I have strong reservations about computerised cars, never mind self-driving computerised vehicles.

I’m not saying I would never get into one. I’ve ridden electric driverless trains. I’ve taken lifts in highly computerised cars. But I wouldn’t feel happy if that was the only way to get about – because computers can be hacked.

I want the option to drive a car that I am in control of. Others may well have a different view, but… whatever happened to consumer choice?

Your fate in their hands

I grew up in Scotland, at a time when nearby Northern Ireland was going through a period of religious conflict and violence. Car bombs were often in the news. With a car bomb, you have a slight chance of detecting it in advance… but what if terrorists were able to hack into your car and drive it over a cliff?

Maybe the chances of this are very slight, and I’m probably a control freak. I don’t think I’m important enough for someone to want to get rid of me.

Source Who makes the decisions: you or your robot car?

But there are other concerns. In the comedy film Idiocracy the hero is whisked into a dystopian future where he is pursued by police for not having the right ID. He tries to use a car as a getaway – but the self-driving car simply drives him to the nearest police station.

This might seem far-fetched; hopefully we won’t end up living in a police state… but what if your car was a company car and your boss had “dual control”? What if a hacker wanted to steal your car?

I think there are many implications to this technology that we should be aware of before we give up control over our cars.

These issues were not covered in the BBC news article – which ironically refers to a “brave new world of self-driving vehicles”. (If you’re not familiar with Aldous Huxley’s classic novel Brave New World, you won’t get the irony!)

Are driverless cars sustainable?

When BBC reporter Justin Rowlatt wrote an article about driverless cars back in October, he invited readers to submit their thoughts on the issue. He said that thousands of people responded – and while many welcomed the idea, many had doubts. Many of these doubts concerned electric cars, as driverless car technology operates using electric cars.

People expressed doubt that there would be enough cobalt or lithium available for all the batteries. But the article quotes an expert saying there is more than enough of these minerals.

What the article does not explore is whether there is enough electricity supply to power billions of electric cars. I would consider this a more important issue, and I wrote about it last year, in this post.

Source Electric cars are portrayed as being “green”, but if they’re adopted on a mass market scale, where will all the electricity come from to power them?

Even more worrying is the thought that travel itself might be made more difficult. We might be increasingly encouraged to see long-distance travel as an unsustainable and unaffordable luxury.

Safety

Another issue that has been raised in the BBC article – and in many others – is the safety of driverless cars. The article suggests that while driverless vehicles will eventually be safer than human-controlled ones, the technology is not quite there yet.

“It is going to take much longer than 10 years before fully automated vehicles are approved,” Justin Rowlatt writes.

I don’t think I’d even be happy driving my own car on roads where driverless cars also operate. I’d need a lot of reassurance that these cars really are safe; that one of them won’t suddenly go out of control and run my car off the road!

 

 

What are your thoughts on this issue? Would you be happy to give up control of your vehicle to a computer?