Blog : Driverless cars – the beginning of the end?

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

1984 and all that…

Craig Cheetham

Much has been made in the news this week about the advent of driverless cars, following the announcement that the UK is the first European country to give the green light to the testing of such technologies on the public roads.

The 'Meridian Shuttle' - at least the Austin Maxi had harmonious styling...
The ‘Meridian Shuttle’ – at least the Austin Maxi had harmonious styling…

In terms of Britain’s engineering and technological expertise, this is great news, as it means we can be seen as a world leader in terms of automotive technology and become one of the standard bearers in what’s inevitably a huge new development. However, as a car enthusiast and passionate driver, I can’t help but feel that the forward march of such things is yet one more nail in the coffin of traditional ‘motoring’.

Allow me, if you will, to wind the clock back over a century. Back when  my grandmother was frolicking freely in the Welsh valleys, cars were very much a luxury. Those who owned them had machines that were, in post-Industrial Revolution terms, fairly efficient and easy to maintain, but were an absolute nightmare to control. Anyone who’s ever driven a Ford Model ‘T’, and I include myself in that statement with the footnote ‘never again’, will know that driving, in the early days of motoring, was an art. A skill…

You couldn't handle one of these without a skilled driver at the helm...
You couldn’t handle one of these without a skilled driver at the helm…

From that skill, we developed motorsport. We discovered that some people had more of an affinity towards motoring than others, and that some people, sadly, couldn’t cope with it at all. As time marched on, cars got ever easier to drive. By the Seventies, we’d pretty much got it licked. And while today’s new models are clearly even more highly developed and technically advanced than those that went before them, anyone who’s driven a modern car can probably handle one built 30 or 40 years previously.

Today’s cars are the easiest to drive, ever. In many ways, it’s a good thing. It makes the least able drivers less stressed and therefore more competent. Plus, as a high mileage motorist thanks to my day job, the low carbon ultra-efficient premium German estate car that my company issues me with is an absolute doddle to pilot from A to B, so much so that you arrive at your destination feeling comfortable and refreshed. That’s not like the days of my old Triumph 1500 or Austin Allegro, where you’d reach your destination having travelled at a reasonably good turn of speed, but needed a good couple of hours to properly unfold your back muscles afterwards…

Furthermore, as someone who regularly drives in excess of 40,000 miles a year (in a former life, it used to be more like 80,000), I believe I have a responsibility to behave appropriately behind the wheel of a car. In recognition of the fact that driving is a skill, and that all skills can be refined, honed and improved, I’m probably my own biggest critic when it comes to driving. If I make a mistake behind the wheel, I feel dreadful – yet we all do it at some point.

In light of my responsibility as a motorist, I’ve voluntarily undertaken three different advanced driving courses, the primary objective of which was to heighten my awareness, learn more about the art and skill of driving and ultimately make myself better and safer at it. I’m no racing driver but, on balance, I’m probably not bad – and I commend anyone who goes out of their way to better themselves. Driving is something you don’t just learn, but derive great enjoyment from learning how to do better.

As a result, 90 per cent of the time, I enjoy driving. If I’m behind the wheel of a car I adore, I thoroughly enjoy it. And it pains me to think that, in an autonomous world, my children or grandchildren may never experience the same pleasure, the same enthusiasm for a particular make or model of car that has turned me into the car nut I am.

The Google driverless prototype, powered by Google Maps. Cute enough for an Owners' Club, and the drivers wouldn't even have to turn up at the National Rally...
The Google driverless prototype, powered by Google Maps. Cute enough for an Owners’ Club, and the drivers wouldn’t even have to turn up at the National Rally…

Yet that’s where we could be headed. I’m not saying it’ll be a quick process, and I might not even still be around to see it happen, but the autonomous vehicle is potentially a threat to the future of car enthusiasm and, as someone who has dedicated more than my fair share of time to cars and the automotive industry in my 37 years, that scares me a little.

I somehow don’t think the current range of driverless cars will take over, but in a world that appears to be governed by a combination of stupidity, well-intentioned but mis-purposed environmentalism, kowtowing to populist opinion and political spin, we may find ourselves slowly and gradually forced out of the cars we know and love. Even pure electric cars, such as the Tesla Model S (for which I have a begrudging but genuine admiration) are capable of killing people if driven by an idiot. I recall that, during my time working for General Motors, the American media went loony tunes over a house fire which may or may not have been started by the charging cable of a Chevrolet Volt (more likely, it’s suggested, by the homeowner running 12 different devices through one unfused socket, but that wouldn’t have made the national news)…

Tesla Model S. I can't help but love it...
Tesla Model S. I can’t help but love it…

Better, then, to take our cars off us and instead issue us with personal mobility machines that take us from one destination to another, wrapped in cotton wool and with no manual override or input whatsoever. Let’s allow the computers to control everything, because, let’s face it, they never crash…

 

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Craig Cheetham

A serial impulsive car purchaser, Craig has had his name on over 200 V5s over the past 20 years. 10 per cent of those have been either 800s or Austin Allegros, with between 10 and 20 cars usually owned at any one time. Started out as a local newspaper journalist then worked for car mags including Auto Express, Classic Car Weekly and Land Rover Owner. Worked inside the car industry for a decade as an employee of General Motors, now works for a news distribution agency. Home based, which is dangerously convenient for further irrational heap purchases. Lover of all makes of car since childhood, with a particular leaning towards Austin-Rover... Father of three boys, so hoping to spread the car love. Other passions include rugby union, travelling and eating out.

51 Comments

    • The Google car is very close to the ones in Woody Allen’s film ‘Sleeper’. With the recent dismissal of health scares around butter and the like, that film might be getting closer to the truth than is comfortable!!

      • “Tobacco! it’s one of the healthiest things for your body!”

        “For breakfast he asked for organic honey, wheatgerm and tiger’s milk”
        “You mean no cream pies or hot fudge?”
        “Those were thought to be harmful – exactly the opposite of what we now know to be true”

        “You must realize that everybody you know has been dead, for 200 years!”
        “But they all ate organic rice!”

  1. The driverless car controlled by computer reminds me of a (reputedly true) tale when Bill Gates was at a party with the Chairman of GM. Bill Gates was boasting that “…. if Microsoft made cars they would do 100mpg and only cost $1000”, to which, quick as a flash, the Man from GM replied “…but if Microsoft made cars half of the population wouldn’t be able to drive them and they would crash before they got to the end of the street!”
    1-0 to GM I think!
    David

    • and dont forget, that when the Microsoft cars crash, you close all the windows and open them up again, and away you go until next time. alex

  2. Excellent blog! On top of that you get all sorts of issues with data privacy and security – on many modern cars this is already the case right now, but it is bound to get much, much worse. With all the data that a current car collects, I am surprised the customer is not asked to sign a privacy statement at all.

  3. I think their introduction is pretty much inevitable, but it will be on nothing like the timescales being bandied around at the moment. I think they’ll find niches at first. The campus car is a good example of this and I could envisage a kind of driverless taxi replacing park and ride schemes in city centres but even that will take some years to get to. Once they’re visible in that kind of role I think we’ll see a gradual adoption over perhaps a couple of decades as people encounter them and get used to the idea. At the moment, something like 60% of people wouldn’t even trust them and I don’t see how manufacturers are going to overcome that level of resistance overnight… and that’s before we even get to the legal/moral thicket of responsibility.

    Personally though, I’d love one!

  4. Who is liable if one of these things is involved in an accident ?

    All drivers have to be insured don’t they ?

    So who is ‘driving’ it ?

    This should keep lawyers well in pocket !!

  5. I also fear the loss of the experience of driving, but I’m not sure the future is as black as it may seem. There are many issues to be resolved before driverless cars become possible, and most of those aren’t technological but are decisions for society, and that normally takes time (if they happen at all).

    For example, what if a driverless car had to make a decision between hitting a family crossing the road or swerving and hitting a bus queue with a family standing at it – how would it decide what to do, and who would be responsible for the outcome? Certainly not the driver if it is really driverless. The company who make the software maybe?

    Driverless cars will become a reality, or maybe society will decide technology isn’t the full answer. There are precedents for this – cloning, GM crops, the debate about artificial intelligence for instance.

    • ‘I also fear the loss of the experience of driving..’

      I also fear the loss of driving experience. Even now I think driving standards are pretty shocking. My office overlooks a supermarket car park. It doesn’t matter when I look out of the window, there is always someone struggling to park a small car in a bay of four free parking bays. They’ll usually just abandon the car parked across two bays.

      Yes theres the auto park function on many new cars. But I still don’t think this is a good idea. In my view, if you can’t park your own car, you shouldn’t be driving at all.

      If your car can drive on its own, leaving you to read a book or whatever, how are you improving your own driving skills?

  6. The Economist ran an article on these a couple of years ago, with a more optimistic outlook. These will be a reality sooner than people think.

    http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21576224-one-day-every-car-may-come-invisible-chauffeur-look-no-hands

    Imagine not having to worry about parking in city centres – the driverless car drops you off at your workplace and can then go and park somewhere less busy.

    Imagine how much better traffic could flow at junctions.

    Imagine the benefits for the elderly and disabled – no more driving the wrong way up the motorway or “pressing the wrong pedal”.

    Imagine the impact on road haulage – no more sleepy truck drivers running on Red Bull and Pro Plus.

  7. Assuming one buy a private driverless car down the line, would they still be required to pass a driving test beforehand whether it featured a semi-autonomous / manual mode or not?

  8. I was having a strange computer issue there, which I suppose highlights potential issues with computer controlled, navigated cars. However, in an increasingly modern, technological world the driverless car most likely will come.

    I can imagine a certain type promoting the advantages “No concentration required on the way to work so you can text all you like, it will park itself, no more hard work judging speeds, distances, corners….”. However, to me the loss of driving enjoyment is a nightmare thought – “the beginning of the end” most definitely, yes!

    I can imagine instances of computer error and newspaper headlines – “Google car attempts to drive into man’s office” etc. Only joking here, but I’m sure some instances of ‘navigational error’ would occur.

    With safety in mind, how about driver cars with more sensors, detectors which would override driver input when potential accidents were detected?

    • Dave,
      if you look at current luxury cars, you will find that they will in many cases override driver input – like activating the brakes before an inevitable crash happens, so that the severity is lessened. These cars already have and use most (if not all) of the equipment needed for a driverless car. They can see lane markers, road signs, pedestrians on the side of the road, other cars, road irregularities (!) and so on. Fascinating and somewhat frightning at the same time….

      • I didn’t quite realise that things had already developed this far in cars which you can buy now. The brake activation I think I maybe knew of but I didn’t know they could see signs, pedestrians etc.
        The ‘road irregularities’ certainly deserves the exclamation mark here in the UK. The car would be continually swerving to avoid bumps and potholes!!

  9. With so much car driving tech eg. radar cruise, automatic emergency braking, lane departure, infra red vision, road sign readers etc. we’re almost there anyway.

    I would only be confident if they had an autopilot style redundancy system, where multiple independently developed decision processors derive an action, and the action taken is that of the majority.

    Though how do they work in unforeseen circumstances, such as snow when road markings and signs wouldn’t be visible?

  10. How would you feel being 38,000 feet in the air and computers flying you and then landing the aircraft you are on – well it happens many many times a day and how many mishaps – very few. Take a look at this site:

    http://www.avherald.com/

    and computers do not seem to be a problem – bear in mind how many flights worldwide there are a day and the number of problems.

    Ever watched your sat nav and it has shown where you are on the road – in snow, the sat nav knows where the road is so no problem with a driverless car staying on a snowy road.

    Presumably, cars would talk to one another so if one had a problem it would inform others of where it was and to avoid it.

    As has been said all sorts of technologies have been introduced so driverless cars has to be a natural progression. Presumably, they will have a female computer mounted in the back seat.

    • Sat Nav isn’t that accurate. According to my Tom Tom my house is 275 yds further along the road than it actually is. Not to mention when new roads are built it takes a while for updates to come through. No , IMHO we have a long way to go yet. As and when they do become commonplace I would think the ambulance chasers (sorry injury lawyers) will think Christmas has come early when driverless cars are involved in accidents and they can sue the driver/passenger, the vehicle manufacturer and the software company . Win win win.

    • There is a fundamental difference between automation of flight processes where the separation from terrain and more particularly from other aircraft is very considerable . This separation is increased by a significant factor if automated landings i.e Category III operations in poor visibility are taking place , and of course the automation is using external signals ( ILS ) to pick up its continuous clues , so I cannot accept that your comparison is valid. Consider a motorway where at 70 mph a separation from the vehicle in front is perhaps 100 feet . Thus taking a medium length 7500 foot runway the automation would have to be capable of dealing with 74 cars , and that is in a single lane . With 3 lanes , the automated vehicles involved the space of a single runway would be more than 220 vehicles. The computing power, and the speed of response, needed would have to be radically superior to that afforded by present day GPS where in my experience the processed signal can be 2 to 3 seconds behind the actual position of the vehicle

  11. Driverless cars + Snow/Ice = end of driverless cars
    Driverless cars + roadworks/diversions = end of driverless cars

    The only way they’ll catch on is by creating special roads, and linking them together to save space, congestion betweens fixed destinations, These things exist today we call them railways.

  12. End game for the car as we know it

    The technolgy exists and can be harnessed to produce the driverless car, so it is only a matter of time. There will be major changes, roads will be redesigned example , no need for traffic lights roundabouts etc, the inter-communicating cars will “speak” to each other digitally and organise safe passages at intersections, driver errors iutautions will be lost, the major cause of accidents and a car may be a mobile lounge or hotel suite, the digital chauffeur the servant in chgarge of the vehicle

  13. The problem with these, over and above how to do a three-finger salute at 85mph on the outside lane of the M6 is the fact of their very existence..
    A human can look at a car being driven by another human and have an idea what they are going to do – because (in most cases) the thought process behind even the most abysmal driver is human, for a given value of the term.
    If theres enough of a space on a roundabout the human in front, or you yourself, will give it a squirt of throttle (such as you can in an Accent 1350) and feed into the space.. and thats what you’d expect, but in a driverless car situation, you expect it to go, it doesnt, cue new radiator and incompetent police officers.. the only way these wont cause accidents is if every single car in every single country is replaced with these all at once.. because since computers are famous for not having intuition and other human attributes the mixture of the two even on quite simple roads will cause accidents – the less thought about the Arc’d’Triomph roundabout and other fun places the better..
    I can see a use for these but even that is touch and go. Give them to old people who possibly shouldnt be driving any more, e.g. those that have the visual acuity of a mole and the reaction speed of a Stegosaur on a cold morning and all should be well… nope, the first thing they’ll do is work out the way to turn it off and you have a myopic geriatric in a 3 tonne 400hp BMW SUV instead of a wheezy Toyota Corolla circa 1994, that couldnt even in perfect tune trouble the skin of a rice pudding..
    This sort of ‘progress’ along with the iphone, for another example, should be prevented by law. Simply because they are helping us to evolve into gormless untalented idiots ala ‘Wall-E’ the only difference being that our lard-transporters will have a Vauxhall or Ford badge on the front. The article makes a very good point, to drive a Model-T you had to learn how to do it properly, ever tried to reverse park one? the joys of a leather cone clutch and non existant brakes… The level of driving ability and knowledge will go down and down because people dont need to know how to reverse park in new cars.. they dont need to learn timing with a crashbox and associated clutch. These may seem like unimportant maneuvers but they teach you spacial awareness and smooth driving which is important when you are trying to judge whether your Ford Ka really can get into that gap between two lorries at 65mph and how to shift smoothly and into the right gear in order to do it without causing mechanical GBH (it took my mother *years* to understand the concept of 5th gear). We are devolving ourselves slowly and surely because the people who should be splatted by the artic’ they just pulled out in front of, or have medical conditions that ‘should’ be and were in previous times fatal are still in the gene pool – this is another strand of the ‘let Google, or Wikipedia, think for us’ condition, which would be bad enough if they were accurate but is even worse when they arent.
    I’m not saying go back to the dark ages of motoring – since the thought of letting todays learner drivers loose on pre selector gearboxes or any transmission with more than one lever will have the road death rates soaring – but all this ‘assistance’ stuff is just downright dangerous – because if and when it fails the person behind the wheel will make Maureen in her Lada estate look like Nelson bloody Piquet… and guess who’s insurance will pay if its a ‘driverless’ car…

    • If comparison is made between the concept of the driverless car with the development of powered flight, it was two decades between Flyer 3 by the Wright Brothers and some successful well understood planes in common use in the late 20s and 30s. There are certainly more engineers and scientists and above all programmers to call upon for the development process, and it must be known that the Wright Brothers were portrayed as liars and fraudsters for their accomplishment in taking to the air, the Kittihawk moment is already passed for the driverless car, and not everyone is obsessed with the “sport” of driving.

      • That’s because they didn’t. It was a chap called White aka Weiss flying an oxy acetylene powered aircraft. His company made acetylene and petrol engines which powered many early aircraft. They included features such as dual OHC, dual ignition, Vee configurations and 4 valves per cylinder. Some even had acetylene generators built in to make fuel on the go (not the safest idea..). The Wrights just made more fuss and won the court case, it didn’t help that White was German either. But I very much doubt you’ll find the truth on Wikipedia etc.. alot like the holocaust.. you know the single handed murder of 10 million Congolese by a single Englishman.. or the Armenian genocide.

  14. And the really scary part – in 20 years some of the people who are learning now will be teaching the next generation – I think I need to save up, does any one know how much KonigsTiger are going for these days.. that way when some idiot tries to slice my front wings off like bits of a Christmas Turkey I can just drive over the top and help the gene pool just a little…

    • Totally agree with you on both your comments Jemma. We are becoming a society of educated drones who can’t tell the difference between thinking of ourselves and thinking by ourselves. You’ve only got to see the amount of people who can’t even change a bulb or wiper blade (hence how Halfords get away with making adverts insulting peoples intelligence)to realise the scale of the problem. As you say more and more people are of the it must be the answer ‘ cause Wikipedia or Google said so innit?. Nobody seems to want to know how things work anymore as long as something or somebody else can do it for them. You can bet your last penny when there is an accident involving a driverless vehicle and a human driven one it will automatically be the human drivers fault. As I have said on a previous comment GPS is not that accurate (10m tolerance at best) as proved by my Sat Nav putting my house over 200m from where it actually is.

  15. These may be used for very specific applications but they will never replace normal cars in regular use. There will be cultural resistance and safety concerns will finish them off.

    Just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it will be successful in the marketplace.

  16. I certainly don’t trust a combination of cameras, GPS, sensors, and Google Maps.

    They might work brilliantly in ideal circumstances, but add snow and ice, and the sensors/cameras, etc, could easily become blinded- and what then? Would the vehicle just come to a stop because it does not know how to proceed?

    I agree with Jemma.

  17. Another white elephant/red herring/pink rhinoceros that is the current flavour of the week and will pass into the distant past as soon as it has arrived. I haven’t read the above posts in full, but can guess they can all be pretty much summarised as such.

    I remember one of many TV slots about them, and they are apparently programmed to the laws of the land they operate in – speed limits, distance to vehicle in front etc. It would take forever and a day for passengers to get used to the idea of having absolutely no flexibility of control over the thing and can’t see how the buying public would ever take to them.

    More expensive wastes of time

    • ” It would take forever and a day for passengers to get used to the idea of having absolutely no flexibility of control over the thing and can’t see how the buying public would ever take to them.”

      Yes, indeed Paul. It’s hard to see people ever adjusting to this lack of control. It would have people rather fearful. The freedom, enjoyment of driving would be virtually gone and for this reason many would not wish to switch a to driverless car

      • Freedom and enjoyment of driving. A sentence soon to be past tense. This is the future of road travel I’m afraid and the journey to this misery will be as follows:

        As many of us are aware Telematics are becoming an ever increasing growth industry. Many of you will not be aware that certain insurance companies are using a combination of brainwashing and extortion are really pushing us to accept telematics in our cars. If they can’t get them fitted as a legal requirement they want it rubber stamped by the government to be able to charge higher premiums for those cars without it. They do (and will continue to do) this anyway but theres nothing like a ministerial seal of approval to back you up.
        In addition more and more insurance companies will not cover you without telematics fitted unless you get a “special” policy with a higher price and lower levels of cover. With more and more electric cars taking to the road there will eventually be a point where sales of fossil fuel driven cars drop off so much that VED and fuel duty will have to rise to make up the shortfall( remember electric cars attract no VED.)

        Because of this reduction of VED contributions the Government will have to introduce Road Pricing. This will apply to all cars regardless of propulsion source so all the fossil fuelled vehicles will have to pay VED in addition to the road tolls. (Remember VED is a pollution Tax). Because of the governments road pricing policy all cars using the road will then have to use telematics. For electric cars the telematics will include software to detect when you have plugged the car into the mains for changing so you have to pay a ” special” tarrif per charge. The telematics tell the insurance co how you accelerate, brake, corner , where you go, when you go, how you go. This will tell them how to justify adjusting your renewal premiums ( invariably upwards) . Because the government are now tracking you all the time they can work out your road toll charges based on distance and times travelled, not to mention being able to detect when you are doing 78mph on the motorway at 2am and automatically fine you and endorse your licence accordingly. As a result whatever enjoyment is left in driving will disappear like a fart in a hurricane and cars will be seen as just expensive domestic appliances.
        In the same way that nobody cooks, gardens, cleans up after themselves or exercise as much as they should any more because it’s just too much hassle in their busy lives, so driving will go that way IMHO. Surely I am not the only one seeing this or all we all too distracted by bubble gum TV and lying politicians? If that sounds all far fetched doom and gloom I hope in 20-30 years I am proved wrong.

  18. Looking at the bigger picture, if this goes ahead, what impact will it have on the motor industry itself? Would there be a need for a choice of ‘cars’,and would there be any need for different manufacturers anymore? How a car drives just won’t be important, surely? We won’t need the ultimate driving machine.

    And what about associated industries such as parts, accessories, servicing, repairs? Will that also mean thousand of people in the automotive industry becoming unemployed?

    • Yep. That too. Just as more and more people nowadays have no clue about how cars work or how to fix them when go wrong so it will be that they will not care about not knowing how to drive them. We are at the mercy of corporations and governments who all they care about is how to make people pay more for the same things or better still for less in return.

      • Further onto my last post your car will become just another domestic appliance where you get in and tell it where to go, no other input required. That will suit the future generations who only care about getting the latest app on their phones or are addicted to ITV.BE. As for Britain being at the forefront of this new age. American and Japanese corporations using Chinese made hardware. Can’t see what we are gaining here

  19. Kev & Kev Sharp

    Although I had said people may be reluctant to switch to driverless cars, not wishing to lose the freedom & enjoyment’ of driving I can also see the scenario you describe – A lot of people with their ‘busy’ lives will regard driving as too much of a hassle and will be quite happy ordering their driverless car from the Argos catalogue along with their new washing machine. Sad but all too easy to imagine!

    • Totally correct. Not everyone enjoys driving, and not everyone is even interested in driving, and some are just plain not fit to drive. Driverless cars will come but do not expect tham to be accident free, and they are not a panacea to travel problems.

  20. Ah, meandering along a winding road in, say, the Yorkshire Dales, admiring the beautiful scenery what a wonderful road to drive.

    Ah, doing battle on four lanes of the M25 in rush hour looking out for the person in the outside lane who will cut across all the lanes because his exit is coming up in 100 yards, what a horrible road to drive.

    Input the required info to a computer and in a millisecond a decision will be made. Input the required info to a driver and in a couple of seconds a decision will be made.

    Always remember my grandfathers reaction in 1969 when ‘the eagle landed’. He was extremely emotional. ‘In the comics when I was a boy there were stories of landing on the moon but I never ever thought it would happen’. Can you ever say that something will not happen. There were fears that people would die due to the speed of the first railway locomotives.

  21. Great points in this thread.

    The “three finger salute” at motorway speeds? How about a driver having a heart attack, passing out, or even having a sneezing fit?

    Autopilot systems work well, these are not consumer desktop grade systems, they would have all sorts of redundancy, watchdog processes for memory / execution etc, there would be multiple systems running the same action. Car ECUs as they are, are fairly reliable.

    Driving pleasure?

    I’ve owned an Alfa Romeo GTV, I’ve driven the Antrim coast road, over the glens, sun shining, and enjoyed it.

    I currently own an automatic Saab, the car before it – a Celica – had much the same fun characteristics of the Alfa. However I was finding that I had less and less time to find a weekend backroad, and having moved to commuterland was spending ever more time in stop-start traffic. A ‘fun’ car wasn’t fun when the heavy clutch, jerky low speed creep, sports suspension and seating were being used getting to and from work. The slushbox Swede causes me to arrive at work, and later home relaxed and unstressed (something that large Rovers were advertised as being able to do…)

    Ideally the driverless cars could have an override option (see the cars of Demolition Man or iRobot for my line of thinking). Let it drive me to and from work. But, on a summers weekend on a glorious road, let me drive.

  22. It is not as if driver operated cars are safe, not with figures such as 150 people killed on the roads every month and many road accidents. When the safety of the driverless car is equal or safer then the conventional car there can be few valid objections, when the driverlesss car is safer by a factor of 10 for example, all objections eliminated

    • ” It is not as if driver operated cars are safe, not with figures such as 150 people killed on the roads every month and many road accidents ”

      As a car enthusiast, I dread the prospect of cars becoming driverless but I can’t deny that this is a good point!!

  23. A good proportion of road deaths involve bikers so they will have to go then as well? Somehow I think a riderless bike will never catch on!
    Pedestrians will always be able to walk in front of a driverless car and take themselves out.
    Factor in computer failure for the cars themselves and you will have plenty of accidents/deaths.

    • I think the only way these will catch on is if either a. All non driverless cars are taken off the road permanently in a single swoop or b. They run on their own road network (Think something along the lines of the Busway network in Runcorn). With the current levels of inaccuracies in GPS technology (not what you would call pinpoint) putting these on the same roads as driven cars is courting disaster.

      • I used to travel on the Runcorn dedicated busway, the drivers of the buses seemed to approach the priority busway / normal road traffic light controlled right angled intersections at too high a speed for my liking, almost beating the timing of the lights, that human error factor again, one day it happened to me, the speeding bus T boned a large railway crew carrier vehicle , the impact sending the latter latter rolling over as per a scene from one of those contrived american disaster movies. That was the last time I ever travelled on a Runcorn bus.

  24. It would easy to be sceptical about these driverless cars, but I think you will find that its nothing new. I have heard of self guiding vehicles on the road (trucks mostly) for quite some time already. they do have drivers, but they are only there to intervene if something odd happens. the default position on these vehicles is probably just to stop. But also consider that some cars have built in auto braking features (for example) already. on the face of it, would a bunch of self driving cars be any worse than a bunch of humans driving cars, which are distracted by children fighting, road rage, cell phones, attractive women, bad weather and so on. Presumably at least, the cars we do drive will adopt more and more protective features though towards self driving, eg auto braking, stability control, 3 d visual experiences, navigation, selfcentreing steering, speed limit warnings, etc.

  25. Today I went for a spin in my 2 seat open top sports car (MX5 if you must know). I enjoyed the feel of the steering, the sensation of wind in my hair, the sunshine on my bald spot, the thrill of making a perfectly timed gear change with just enough revs, the metallic snick of the gearlever as the cogs meshed, the slight kick out of the rear wheels when I booted it round a deserted roundabout and the feeling of freedom for a little while.

    Why on earth would I want a car driven by a computer?

  26. Strangely (many will say) Mr Clarkson had a good point.

    These cars will need to make ethical decisions, because when confronted with an unavoidable fatal accident they may need to make a judgement ie Do I let the accident take place and kill the driver or swerve off the road and kill the pedestrians.

    How far would you take it, say a car driven by a 35 year old, should the car save the 35 year old at the expense of two 90 year old OAP’s as the sum total of remaining years is less than the driver?

    Unless the Government legislates the logic for these decisions, I cannot imagine any corporation exposing itself no win no fee lawyers who would challenge the cars “ethical decision” in the courts.

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