Automation is the world’s new in-thing, cars are no exception
rides hands-free in a Tesla Model S vehicle equipped with Autopilot hardware and software in New York. This developing trend seems to have gone unnoticed by the authorities in Hong Kong despite the fact that it should be of particular significance in this densely populated and overbuilt city.
Self-driving cars have become a reality rather than a dream. Nearly all the global tech companies, particularly Google, are investing big money in perfecting the technology. Major car manufacturers in the United States, Japan and Europe are developing new autonomous cars for the road.
Governments in some developed economies are also setting standards and drafting guidelines on how self-driving cars should work.
This developing trend seems to have gone unnoticed by the authorities in Hong Kong despite the fact that it should be of particular significance in this densely populated and overbuilt city. Driving on the city’s often congested roads and through narrow streets is never a pleasure. It is a chore better left to the machines.
How many times have an average motorist who can’ t afford to hire a driver dreamed of settling in the front seat, sipping coffee and playing his favorite game on the iPad, while his car crawls through traffic and makes the right lane changes to take him to his destination, all by itself. Autonomous cars are available. But they are not allowed on Hong Kong roads for safety reasons.
That’s a pity. Self-driving cars are supposedly safer because they are programmed to obey traffic rules and keep a safe distance from other vehicles in front. Of course, there’s no guarantee against getting hit by cars driven by reckless humans. But that’s not the potential hazard unique to autonomous cars. Many drivers, including myself, have experienced being rear ended by an idiot or a drunk.
There are people who asked if we need self-driving cars. To others, self-driving technology is part of the logical progress of automation in automobile development, starting from the self-starter motor in the early 20th century.
Now, it’s hard to find a car without automatic transmission and power everything. The level of automation has reached a stage when the inboard computer can override the driver when it detects the onset of calamity.
Indeed, most cars now have computer “brains” that are getting smarter and, whether you like it or not, more intrusive. Empowering them with autonomy is just a matter of time. Now is the time.