Self-driving cars will crash, warns the man responsible for overseeing their … –

Head of government policy unit says autonomous cars won’t be infallible, even though they have the potential to dramatically reduce road deaths

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Does Volvo have it wrong and are they taking great risks when they say zero injuries and deaths in it’s cars by 2020? Do they mean to the occupants of their driverless cars or anyone involved in a crash with a Volvo? Are they setting up our expectations that driverless cars means no accidents and no crash related fatalities? If they tell us they will always be safe, despite the many reasons we have discussed and I have covered in previous blogs are they setting the industry up for a massive fail?

First, lets fully trust car manufacturers. VW anyone? Whatever they say to sell millions of cars is is OK. If its not true and the get caught out, just sack the CEO and some other sacrificial lambs.

So let’s say there are a substantive number of crashes involving driverless cars (I’m not saying caused by) and the public’s expectation is zero harm. What will the backlash be and who will it be targeted against?

Who will be the lambs for slaughter? Politicians, car manufacturers, anyone else who loudly hailed the arrival of a technology that will reduce congestion and traffic incidents?

Let’s be realistic, accidents happen. They happen for lots of reasons. In my opinion, motoring will become safer, certainly on some types of road, because of autonomous cars. The average new car will be safer because of technologies installed in new driver operated cars because of the technologies being designed and the quality of road maps that will also be a consequence of the new autonomous car developments.

However, don’t be fooled by the shiny shoe salespeople who say it will be a 100% safety extravaganza. I promise you, it won’t.

Even the insurance companies who currently say they will provide cover for the autonomous vehicles will quickly rewrite their policies as a few of them drive off the road, or have serious crashes and the underwriters realise that their profit is at risk.

My policy is under promise and over deliver. Sure there will be some crashes. There will even be deliberate provocations as in this story

If we predict zero, customers will have zero tolerance and the industry could be set back a decade, depriving us of the benefits we could be enjoying.

Crowds can be very unforgiving, especially when they feel they were deceived. They can also be understanding if given the story straight. I don’t feel this is happening at the moment.

Everyone is being hoodwinked as the industry pushes us into a future as inevitable as cars replacing horses when all we wanted was faster horses. But the cost of over promising will be very high.

One of the benefits of being a futurist is in understanding what might happen, what could go wrong and changing things so that some potential futures don’t happen.

Let’s accept that there will be problems. Our laws need to change, our traffic management systems need to change, our map data needs to be dramatically better, we need to understand that a technology that works perfectly in the USA or Central Europe will not automatically work well in Scandinavia or New Zealand.Car manufacturers need to work closely with Governments and motorists representatives such as motoring clubs. They need to be transparent, VW has proven that you can’t get away with it indefinitely, but you can damage a lot of reputation and trust in the process.

Honesty and integrity will go a long way. The roadside will be littered with those who made reckless promises in return for a quick buck. All the above is my personal humble opinion of course.

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About Luigi Cappel

Writer for hire, marketing consultant specialising in Location Based Services. Futurist and Public Speaker Auckland, New Zealand
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