It is with a heavy heart that I tell you that all I have predicted is coming to pass. Hmmm… OK, I admit it. It is with joy and glee, and a bit of a dance that I tell you, “I told you so!”. UBER has started its early stage pilot of robotic cars in Pittsburg. UBER bought out the robotics staff from Carnegie Mellon, and other robot labs, and has consolidated the team in Pittsburg. Not surprisingly, their early tests are going to be close to their robot headquarters. UBER’s somewhat clunky Ford Fusions, equipped with early versions of their custom radar systems and cameras, are now on the streets of Pittsburg. The earliest of the early test show that robots drivers are better than people when it comes to driving!
What exactly did I tell you would happen? First, UBER would develop its own robotic technology, probably partnering with a major car company, to launch a driverless car service. Second, once are on the streets, the real pilot will take place in the location where UBER pays drivers the most and where there are the greatest number of riders… New York City. Third, once robots are on the road they will quickly outperform their human counterparts. And fourth, once autonomous cars are seen as superior drivers, human drivers will first be seen as an expensive eccentricity and later as a genuine threat to society. Why? Because The 35,000 or so annual deaths and several millions of accidents that are caused by human drivers will virtually disappear. That’s a massive impact on society. And on insurance companies.
Once robot drivers are common, the very act of turning off an autonomous driving system will be seen in the same light as ripping out your seatbelts or removing the airbags. Should you have an accident, the court is unlikely to be lenient. It won’t happen overnight. Drunk drivers may be “sentenced” to only using autonomous cars. Accidents made in anger or because the driver didn’t get enough sleep or because they were distracted by a text will have an increasingly difficult time defending themselves in court. Eventually , “recreational drivers” will find it terribly expensive to get the necessary insurance to continue driving their car.
Too soon to worry about losing your right to drive? Then consider, “The Self-driving Coalition for Safer Streets.” This is an association whose members include UBER, Lyft, Volvo, Google, and Ford. Their goal is to accelerate the introduction of autonomous vehicles and to make the public aware of the safety advantages of self-driving cars. Don’t worry, the government isn’t interested in taking away your right to drive. People are going to give up driving on their own. Of course, having your car insurance double every other year will certainly speed things up! And that’s my Niccolls worth for today. What do you think? Leave a comment and share your view!