As big as cars replacing horses
LAST week, a driverless shuttle bus was tested in Las Vegas as part of that city’s smart infrastructure project. It had a minor collision in the first hour with a human-driven truck. Despite this setback, driverless cars are here to stay and slated to become ubiquitous in the not-so-distant future. This is because the technology behind autonomous vehicles has hit a sweet spot. Not only are we close to mass producing driverless cars, concerns regarding road safety, pollution and vehicular congestion are nearing tipping point.
Fortunately the solution looks close at hand too, stemming from a confluence of electric vehicles, driverless cars and ride hailing apps such as Uber. Human error is responsible for the vast majority of road accidents today.
Enter driverless cars that run on electricity and can be booked through ride hailing apps. Convergence of these trends will spark a mobility revolution, comparable to the one when automobiles replaced horse drawn buggies. Not only will they diminish the need to actually own a car – cutting down expenses on maintenance, repair and parking – they will rationalise traffic, reduce or eliminate traffic jams and accidents, cut urban pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. They are the perfect fit for smart cities of the future where transportation is seamless, safe and efficient.
However, putting driverless cars on the road also requires creating the infrastructure for them. Roads and highways need to be properly equipped with sensors and charging stations. Appropriate legal frameworks must be in place for consumer protection in the new autonomous environment.