Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Home James!

There’s a growing amount of interest in the development of driverless cars. The wider subject is really beyond the remit of this blog, although I’m sure there are many applications where they will prove very useful. However, as with many other disruptive technologies, both government and independent commentators seem unsure as to how they will eventually come to be used, and there’s a distinct possibility that they will stand many existing certainties of transport policy on their head.

Looking at it from a more parochial perspective, one area where they could make a massive difference is in getting you home from the pub. In rural areas, with negligible public transport and distances beyond an economic taxi ride, pubgoing opportunities are currently very constrained. And, even in towns and cities, while there will be some pubs that can be reached easily on foot or by public transport, there are plenty more that can’t be. Just imagine programming your automatic chariot for a night’s crawl round some otherwise hard-to-reach pubs!

Some have suggested that there will always need to be a sober, licensed driver on hand in case of emergencies, but that rather defeats the whole purpose, and how quickly could someone be expected to react anyway if they were transfixed by cat videos on Youtube? And surely one of the major benefits of driverless cars would be to enhance mobility for people such as the elderly or those with chronic illnesses who are currently unable to drive themselves.

However, no doubt the killjoys will be working hard on ways to prevent driverless cars being used in this way, saying “that’s not what they were intended for”.

28 comments:

  1. Arguably the biggest impact isn't turning your motor into a taxi.

    The decline of trunk drivers & taxi drivers will create a new economy of artisan craft brewers as these people re skill to more rewarding work. That and fewer murdered prostitutes, serial killings & the like with the decline in truck drivers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I had wondered about this too, but I expect you're right that it will be a requirement to be within the legal drinking limit of you're using a driverless car.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But that would prevent driverless cars replacing manned taxis, which has been advanced as one of the main opportunities. There are a lot of unanswered questions around the whole issue - I don't think people have remotely worked out how it's actually going to work.

      Delete
    2. I don't think that is likely. There have been several studies done looking into how well humans can take control in the event of an emergency. The results have shown that it takes the average person somewhere between 5 and 10 seconds to intervene in the event of an emergency. Unless they are doing the driving, people just don't keep the same level of concentration hence why it takes them so long to react. When they eventually become legal, self-driving cars will be completely autonomous. By all accounts, the technology is almost ready, and the main barrier to implementation is going to be a legal one.

      Delete
  3. "Some have suggested that there will always need to be a sober, licensed driver on hand in case of emergencies"
    This feels like a sop to people's fears around new technology to me. I'm sure it will be required, and also that the human driver will have to be focused, attentive and ready to take over at any point, but how long is that likely to last?

    For driverless cars to take off they'll have to be orders of magnitude safer than humans, virtually infallibly so... Once people realise this, I'd imagine the public safety sector is more likely to be agitating to ban human drivers, and enforce driverless vehicles, rather than the other way round.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. I've deliberately avoided getting into the wider implications, but my fear is that the powers-that-be will see it as an opportunity to increase control.

      Delete
    2. From what I have heard, one of the major problems is in getting the car intelligent enough to make life/death decisions. What happens if a toddler runs out in front of the car, does it swerve like a human would probably do, possibly causing an accident which might seriously injure or kill the passengers? Or does it plough into the kid? Manufacturers are dreading the thought of being called child killers.

      Delete
    3. The Trolley Problem. That'sgoing to be the difficulty. On another tack, ISTR a service where you could drive to the pub, and a bloke turns up on a foldable bike, drives you and you car home with the bike in the boot, then bikes off. No idea if it took off, I suspect not.

      Delete
    4. All the indications are that these things are going to happen, so presumably the "trolley problem" will be resolved to the satisfaction of legislators. One issue, of course, could be urchins deliberately playing chicken with driverless vehicles.

      The drawback of the "bike in boot" service is that it's always going to be a distress purchase - nobody would deliberately plan a pub visit on that basis.

      Delete
  4. To me the possibility of having to take control at a moments notice seems more stressful than actually driving.

    ReplyDelete
  5. With an internet connected virtual reality headset, why would I need to go anywhere anyway? driverless car or no driverless car?

    I might have to go to the front door once in a while to accept packages, tesco deliveries and i'll need to go as far as the road to push my bins out. But why would I have to go in a pub & buy overpriced drinks to meet people?

    ReplyDelete
  6. The irish have debated this https://www.rte.ie/news/2017/0124/847413-driverless-cars-could-save-rural-pubs-seanad-told/

    ReplyDelete
  7. I think the biggest problem is that if you can go anywhere at anytime, everyone will want one & the roads will be clogged up. If you don't have to be awake when using them they will be used for going up and down the country at all hours. Imagine also all the retirees going out for a spin everyday. It won't work,there isn't the road capacity,so I think they will invent an 'in control of vehicle' rule to restrict it practically.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There will still be a cost associated with using a driverless car, just as there is with a conventional one, so people won't be using them willy-nilly at all hours of the day and night.

      However, if you use it to drop you at your destination, and it then either returns home or finds somewhere to park up until you're ready to be collected, then obviously they will increase the total amount of traffic.

      I'd say points like this illustrate how it's a potentially game-changing technology that people are still struggling to get their heads round.

      Delete
    2. I reckon a lot of people won't actually own their own car. The average car in the UK spends 92% of it's time parked. If it is self-driving, once it drops you off, it can go off and take someone else somewhere in the way a taxi does. Sure some people may own their own, but I suspect a lot of people won't. So long as it turns up and takes you from A to B when you need it to, there seems little point in having your own vehicle.

      Delete
    3. Not sure that will be the case. For a start, there's a strong desire to personalise cars as an expression of status or individuality. Having your own car immediately available is a lot better than having to summon one, which at busy times could involve a long wait, as with taxis.

      Parents need to carry dedicated child seats around in their car. Many people tow caravans. And many leisure journeys, particularly holidays, involve multiple stops and also carrying luggage and other belongings around with you.

      Delete
    4. Buy a car, have it drive you to work in the morning, then it goes and works for Uber until going home time. Who knows really, the only thing I'm sure about is that the technology is coming.

      Delete
    5. But the time when working for Uber would make most money is exactly when most people would want their cars themselves. And you wouldn't be happy if it returned and someone had pissed on the seats!

      Delete
  8. I would assume that as long as the person walking in front of the car with the red flag is sober, then you'll be OK!

    ReplyDelete
  9. There is always the unfortunate destination as well. On holiday in Inverness and call a car. Automatically tell it to take you home. Slump in seat and fall asleep; wake up 5 hours later when it's half way to Plymouth.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I suspect you are right that we won't be able to use a driverless car after a few pints, thus rendering its primary benefit instantly redundant. If you're going to have to be 'car-fit' to travel in a driverless, you might as well stick with a proper car that looks good and provides driving satisfaction.

    It is a strange phenomenon of our times and this certainly isn't the only example. Consider vaping. Pubs and restaurants and stations etc. are increasingly banning vaping indoors, forcing vapers to go outside with the smokers. And if you're going to do that, you might as well actually smoke.

    It even extends to infrastructure projects. Coventry Ricoh Arena gets its own railway station - which is deliberately kept closed immediately after all games and events so the crowds can't/don't use it, in which case, what is the point of having it in the first place...

    Back in the 90s I wrote a sketch for the radio about Joseph Heller's Catch 22 only being available to people who didn't want to buy a copy. I didn't realise this sort of thing would actually become a feature of everyday...

    ReplyDelete
  11. Having read some of the literature, it seems that a sort of breathalyzer would indeed be part of the design. But then, at one time, weren't the American authorities thinking of making them mandatory in new cars anyway?

    Uber though have been testing driverless (engineer on board) taxis in Pittsburgh and people have been taken to and from bars; so we live in hope:)

    ReplyDelete
  12. I suspect driverless cars may be further away than many think. Even if they operate flawlessly they still aren't an adequate solution to mass urban transit - the applications are more limited.

    In terms of the discussion at hand, I'd be staggered if these were allowed to used without at least one sober and qualified passenger/driver.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Syd Differential26 March 2017 at 06:17

    Who needs a driverless car ? It's the wife's job to get me home when I'm pissed.

    ReplyDelete

Comments, especially on older posts, may be subject to prior approval. Bear with me – I may be in the pub.

Please be polite and remember to play the ball, not the man.

Any offensive or blatantly off-topic comments will be deleted.

See this post for some thoughts on my approach to blog comments.