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Will driverless cars lead to a zombie culture?Back

Driverless cars have the potential to transform the way we travel but certain types of vehicles may not be safe, peers have warned.

Over-reliance on technology could mean drivers react slowly to taking back control of a semi-autonomous vehicle in an emergency, they said.

Vehicles can be split into different levels of automation. Level 0 is a vehicle with no automation, while level 5 is fully automated.

The problem lies with vehicles on the midway point of this scale, peers on the Lords Science and Technology Committee said.

These vehicles can shift control between the car and the driver.

The risk is that the vehicle may need to hand back control to an unprepared driver in an emergency.

The UK debate follows news that fully-autonomous cars could be on California’s road by the end of the year under proposed new rules.

Cars with no steering wheel, no pedals and without a back-up driver could be driving themselves on the roads under the new state rules proposed last week. If officials give them the go-ahead in, it will be seen as a big step forward given the state’s size and influence.

According to Sven Raeymaekers, of tech investment banker GP Bullhound, the majority of car manufacturers estimate the first highly to fully automated vehicles will hit the market between 2020 and 2025.

Advantages

Fewer accidents. Driverless cars never fall asleep, drink or get distracted. Government figures show that 1,732 people were killed on Great Britain’s roads in 2015. Human error is the reason for 93 per cent of crashes, according to a 2008 survey by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.While the technology won’t eliminate accidents altogether, it should greatly reduce the numbers.

More space. Studies have shown that as many as 95 per cent of cars in London are left sitting in parking spaces for most of the time. Driverless cars can be summoned when needed, eliminating the need for parking spaces.

Greater accessibility. Driverless cars open up the opportunity for the very old or young and the disabled to move around more easily, giving them greater freedom.

Increased productivity. If the car drives itself, then reading a newspaper or writing emails can be done on the move just like on on public transport.

Disadvantages

Job losses. Lots of people make their living from driving including taxi, minicab, delivery and haulage drivers. New jobs will be created in the driverless car industry but these will require people with very different skills. Without a government plan, there will be potentially hundreds of thousands of people unemployed across the UK with no new job to go to.

Death of the high street. Once driverless vehicles are able to collect items to bring home, then it may almost eliminate the need to ever pop into a shop.

Data privacy. Most people are uneasy about how much data the likes of Facebook and Google have about us. Future cars may have a wide array of biometric sensors, such as facial recognition, but what happens if this gets hacked and the data stolen?

The legal implications. The question of who is responsible when a driverless car crashes is a hot topic at the moment. Is it the driver, the owner, the manufacturer or the people who designed the automated systems in the car? It gets even more complicated if someone hacked the car and caused the accident.

Psychological impact. Are we ready to hand over control to machines? It’s unclear how this will affect humans overall. Will it free up our time or, as one journalist put it, ‘is it a step towards the world of Wall-E where we roll around on floating chairs, staring at screens and becoming obese?’

 

  • What do you think about driverless technology? Are you looking forward to an autonomous future?

Posted by Beth Rose on 14/03/2017