Monday, August 25, 2014

Driverless cars will be an uphill battle in the UK

I love posting about drone cars - they're such delicious topics for debate. So this week I learned that the AA - the roadside assistance company in England - conducted a survey of 23,000 drivers in the wake of the government's announcement that they'd be starting drone car trials as early as 2015. It was a simple survey - do you want driverless cars or not? Contrary to similar surveys in the US where upwards of 80% of respondants have said they do, in the UK, the majority of drivers - 65% - don't want them. 43% of drivers don't even want road laws in place to allow them. There's going to need to be a big leap of faith to go from cars with intrusive "driver aids" to cars that are fully automated. (Many drivers, myself included, don't even like the "driver aids").

The difference - I think - is that European drivers are more well-educated on the topic of drone cars than US drivers. In America, from casual discussions I've had, most people don't understand that the only reason the Google driverless car trials (currently the most advanced) have been so successful is because they've been conducted in an area where the car has a centimetre-level GPS map of it's surroundings. You can't take any of the Google cars and put them in New York. Or London. Or anywhere outside the area where they've been, because Google doesn't have the fidelity of map needed for the car to work. It's not all sensors and realtime software functions - the cars are essentially following GPS-plotted routes and using the sensors to account for variances (traffic, pedestrians etc). We're still a very long way from fully driverless systems - and I for one am hoping it doesn't happen until long after I've left the planet.

Let me put it another way - to simplify it: you want to trust your life to an automated machine that will be built by car manufacturers that can't figure out a 37c ignition switch, airbag sensors or the position of the floor mats under the pedals? Good luck with that.