John Leech, @KPMG, head of automotive “£100m investment in developing driverless cars will be warmly received by the automotive industry”
— Transport community (@transportktn) March 19, 2015
Some people will view the release of driverless cars as a new step in the eventual progress of humanity while others will be horrified. Some people value the freedom a car brings while others love the mastery of the machine.
I would have to say my only real concern is that I’ve seen the software that most developers write and while that’s fine for apps and games and even trains that are restricted to rails, having them on roads is a different challenge. And we haven’t yet established whether the Google Car will interface with the Apple iCar or whether the latter will “Go Thermonuclear”. And I’m only half-joking.
Billions will be spent developing better intelligence in cars and every company will end up re-inventing the wheel again and again as they approach their end goal. Investment from governments will need to be made in homologation of car intelligence and not just in wheels, suspension and other controls. Some manufacturers will wait and just license the Google Car software which, on the face of it, is probably smarter.
But driverless cars will bring about a huge reduction in the number of cars required on the roads. A family may ‘subscribe’ to a car service rather than owning a car (which is just one step further than today’s hire-purchase leasing). Most of us don’t need a car to sit idle outside our house at night and idle outside our workplace during the day – our car can be out helping pensioners get their shopping or driving government workers to perform site inspections while still managing to be outside at 5:30 to drive us home. And there will be a knock-on effect on the ‘taxi’ industry.
The interesting point though is that I foresee a singularity in this sector. At some point, probably twenty years after the first commercial release, there will be a sufficient mass of intelligent cars for governments to ban human driving from public roads. By that time no-one will be producing ‘feature cars’ in any volume and no-one outside of specialist collectors will even own them.