Yes, you read that correctly. Self-driving cars aren’t part of some futuristic vision – they’re already here. Or they soon will be if you love anywhere near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This week brought news that Uber are planning on deploying self-driving cars to this small corner of the USA, and although these trials won’t be completely unmanned (there will be drivers present in the vehicle to supervise and in case something goes wrong), this could pave the way for a true self-driving taxi service in the future. So will this be a technological landmark and complete game changer or perhaps a step too far? Of course, we’re not scientific experts or can see the future, but we’ve put together a few pros and cons if you’re unsure about whether a self-driving car can get you to your chosen destination…
Well, you don’t have to drive for starters, something that can be a pain at the best of times, especially if you’re tired, stressed or prone to bouts of road rage. If for some reason you’re unable to get behind the wheel of a car yourself, having a self-driving one at your disposable means you’ll no longer have to put up with public transport and that’s a plus in anyone’s book.
You can catch up on your films and books. It’s what we do when we get on a train or bus, so why can’t we do it in a self-driving car? Imagine watching a film or your favourite TV show on your phone and not having to worry about the person next to you peering over your shoulder.
You don’t have to make small talk with the taxi driver. For those of you who take taxis, this is probably going to be a very big deal indeed. Of course not all taxi drivers have questionable viewpoints and like to voice them at a drop of a hat, but there’s nothing more awkward than having to nod and make conversation when all you want to do is hide under your bag until you get to your destination.
Trust issues. If you have them then you might not want to willingly climb into a car with no driver. The stress of the journey probably won’t be worth it.
It’s kind of great to actually drive that car yourself, isn’t? If we’re not tired and have the opportunity to dash down winding country lanes (while sticking to the speed limits of course), then we’re all for getting behind the wheel of a car. Why let a computer have all the fun?
British roads. The idea of a self-driving car navigating the wide straight roads of many an American town or city or those endless highways that connect them is all very well and good, but British roads? Perhaps not. Our roundabouts are legendary and not for good reasons, and as all drivers know, half our time is spent waiting behind parked cars on narrow roads, letting other drivers pass. How would self-driving cars negotiate this most British of problems? How would they acknowledge their gratitude at someone letting them past if there’s no one to wave a thanks? Because to not wave is considered punishable by law in the UK. Possibly.
There’s that small matter of accidents. Ok, so we’re guessing that any software developers will have taken this into account, but there will always be that small nugget of doubt. So if we’re to see genuine driverless cars at some point in the distant or not too distant future, can we really expect to experience a completely relaxing stress-free journey to take place in one? We think not. So what’s our verdict on the possibility (or even reality) of the self-driving car? On the whole, we’re going to remain sceptical, mainly because we can’t imagine any driverless car negotiating our British roads successfully, probably because not too many cars WITH drivers can manage it. Or on the other hand we could be completely reliant on them in a decade or two. Who knows? But whatever happens, we still have Europcar and Budget Rent a Car to help us get from A to B while we wait for the next technological innovation to come along.
By Anna Scott, 23rd August 2016