Sunday, December 2, 2018

Google's dithering is costing millions of lives - and counting.

Andrew Atkin:

Each year over 1 million lives are lost to human error on the roads, world over. That will quickly come down to 100,000 and less, as robotics takes over the driving.

Hence, every time we delay the deployment of driverless technology we cost lives. Each delayed year costs about a million lives, and about 5 million severe injuries.

This is why we shouldn't want to hold back driverless implementation. But we do, and actually quite drastically.

Here is the point. We can already win the critical safety advantages provided by driverless technology as the technology stands today. It's simply a matter of deploying single-seat vehicles that drive themselves to the next customer.

You can drive the car when you're in it, but it will be extremely safe regardless because the car operates with advanced anti-collision technology, inherent in a driverless-capable vehicle. 

Each driverless car would take 10 to 30 traditional cars off the road. Because they are highly economical (most cars would be 300 kg single-seaters) and convenient, the popularity and therefore deployment of these cars should be rapid.

We could have actioned the first stage of deployment 2 or even 3 years ago. But Google (or more specifically, Waymo) has chosen not to. Why?

I can only speculate. But think of this. If Google deploys an auto-send car-sharing system, the effect would be that auto companies go bankrupt overnight. Because the death of the private-auto as we know it would be written on the wall for all to see, and plainly. Who's going to buy a new car for $70,000 while knowing full well that they will struggle to sell it for even $5,000, in 2 years time? You don't have to collapse demand too much to induce a devastating glut, destroying sale prices.

This isn't a problem for countries like New Zealand that import (not make) automobiles. But for other countries it will be devastating to their trade economies, albeit in the short term. Maybe--and to stress I can only speculate here--political forces and financial interests are deliberately holding back driverless deployment because they're afraid that too much change, too soon, will hurt too many people (financially). 

This is all I can put it down to, because when it comes to driverless technology we seem to be hell-bent on playing dumb. It's just so obvious that we should be starting off with an auto-send car-sharing system using compact 'mini' cars, to catch the bulk of the demand. Again we could have done this years ago....and it's costing lives. Millions of them.

The included short video clarifies my argument: