Rhetoric around this new technology has been unusually level-headed. For once, that might be a bad ideaby Emran Mian / February 11, 2015 / Leave a comment
I’m very excited about driverless cars. They have the potential to change a lot of what we take for granted in our economy, whether that’s how post and parcels get to our homes or how we get from our homes to our offices and schools. But the technology will develop gradually, perhaps taking as much as 20 years before it starts to transform anything. What’s supposed to happen in the meantime though is that politicians get way ahead of the feasibility studies and make rhetorical claims that are fun to debunk. Disappointingly, they’re being much more level headed.
Today the Government launched “The Pathway to Driverless Cars,” a long, careful action plan for the next several years. There were some fanciful statements. Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, said that the UK has the opportunity to place itself as a world leader in what will become a £900bn industry. That figure is more or less a complete invention. We can nit-pick the title of the report too. Most of the vehicles it envisages have a driver—indeed, the driver bears liability for any accidents that occur rather than the machine. However, on the whole the plan is informed by a sophisticated understanding of the car industry, the challenges facing “autonomous vehicles,” and what government can do about them.