Self Driving Cars - Why We Need To Hasten Their Arrival

Every time you get into your car you're taking an enormous leap of faith, trusting your life to every other road user that shares your road space during your journey. The more miles you drive the more people you put your trust in. It goes beyond the trust in their driving ability, concentration levels, regard of the law; and all those other things that regulate how we drive, but also encompasses the vehicle itself.

I love driving but I can also see that the most dangerous component in any car is the one that sits behind the steering wheel.

Which is why I'm looking forward to a future where cars are driven by computers and not people.

However, like any change it's going to be hard to drive through. (Pardon the pun). Whilst there are many manufacturers who are working on self-driving cars, ultimately someone is going to have to bring them together to create some standards and regulations around the what, where, who and how of self-driving cars.

The motor industry blossomed in the last century because of the consistency in the driving and ownership experiences. Technology companies have shown a complete inability to do the same thing. There are strong regulators within the EU and now is the time for them to step in and direct the industry before too much time and money are invested in competing incompatible standards.

Some of the things that need to be addressed right now relate to communications between self-driving cars, the road infrastructure and a central control point, (e.g. for charging and monitoring systems). There will also need to be some consideration of how different collision avoidance systems interplay with each other and also how those decisions are scored in terms of outcomes. Who is going to clear up the legal mess after a self-driving car swerves into the path of a HGV to avoid hitting a pedestrian who has stepped into the road?

These challenges are worth facing, because there are huge community benefits to taking the need to drive and (ideally) ownership of a vehicle out of the individual's responsibility and passing it to municipalities.

And when it comes time to begin large scale testing of self-driving vehicles one place stands out as the ideal test location: Central London.

With a congestion charging zone that could easily be remade as an exclusion zone for regular cars, excellent availability of charging points, plus extensive and available public transport services to manage the movement of people on mass, a small number of London Mayor-owned self-driving cars, replacing taxi services and private cars, could herald the arrival of a truly integrated public transport system.

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