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Keep your eyes off the road, your hands not on the wheel*

Keep your eyes off the road, your hands not on the wheel*

Posted on 31st August 2020

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Cars are so clever nowadays.  Well, except that, being non-sentient, they aren’t, at least not yet.  They are largely dependent on clever humans, who come up with amazing technology to make them more efficient and safer, and some not so clever ones who, despite all the first lot’s technological gizmos which can help them prevent collisions, keep them in the right lane etc, still drive badly and cause accidents. AI will change all that, perhaps, as driverless cars come to the fore, but there are still those who worry about the number of accidents we might have in driverless cars – and who would then be liable.

There is, of course, no doubt that driverless cars will become increasingly common.  Google “sleep in your driverless car” and you’ll find articles going back several years.  Google, “tea in your car” and you’ll quickly discover articles telling you that not only will you be able to drink tea while your motor gets you to the office, but that hydrogen fuel-cell cars will be able to produce the water you need to make your brew.

The other week, I read that Ford are starting trials of a new tool that will predict where there are going to be accidents.  Essentially, it will use inter-connected vehicles to provide the data, and thence the insights, that will enable road traffic safety experts/road planners to reduce the number of accidents and increase road safety. Around 700 passenger and commercial vehicles are expected to take part in an 18-month experiment across London and Oxfordshire. In fact, this is old news, or rather a continuation of an earlier story.  Ford had already announced this project back in 2018. This new story seems to be taking things to the next stage.  But it’s yet another example of the amazing impact that tech is having on all our lives - and how the IT is not just making our lives easier but also safer.

Cars have been having accidents since almost as soon as they were invented.  In fact, the first road accident seems to have been in Ohio City in 1891. For all those who are worried about the potential number of driverless car accidents, it’s worth pondering the following fact: in an average year, 1.35 MILLION people die in road accidents.  This costs most countries about 3% of their GDP.  

This level of car-related mortality also puts the deaths from COVID in perspective: no-one is suggesting we ban cars to stop road deaths. There are those, however, who believe there is a strong case against driverless cars. However, it’s hard to imagine that the driverless cars of the future – green powered, safe and robust – will not reduce the number of accidents, deaths and injuries substantially. Furthermore, given that, as I have pointed out above, the amazing work done by the motor industry’s techies has been many years in the making, we’re nearly there and soon we’ll be able to snooze on our way to our (occasional) visits to the office.  Unless, of course, like me, you prefer to cycle!

Freddie Kydd, Be-IT

*with apologies to The Doors, whose “Roadhouse Blues” is now being rendered meaningless by technology

Posted in News, Opinion

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