Peter Martin in The Age yesterday, on driverless cars:
Imagine studying, reading books, watching TV, sleeping or (legally) playing with your mobile phone on the way to work. Whichever way you look at it, the freed-up time will boost productivity.
Wait a minute, thousands of us do that stuff every day by catching public transport to work.
Even when it’s crowded and you’re standing, it’s generally possible to steady yourself with one hand and play with a mobile phone with the other.
Oh, and pardon me for being a little cynical, but I suspect the technology has a way to go yet given reports that it still relies largely on highly detailed mapping data rather than actually being able to “see” what’s in front of it:
But the maps have problems, starting with the fact that the car can’t travel a single inch without one. Since maps are one of the engineering foundations of the Google car, before the company’s vision for ubiquitous self-driving cars can be realized, all 4 million miles of U.S. public roads will be need to be mapped, plus driveways, off-road trails, and everywhere else you’d ever want to take the car. So far, only a few thousand miles of road have gotten the treatment, most of them around the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. The company frequently says that its car has driven more than 700,000 miles safely, but those are the same few thousand mapped miles, driven over and over again.
The article also notes the risk of maps being out of date, of not being able to “see” a temporary traffic light because it’s not mapped.
Of course, computing power is improving by leaps and bounds all the time, but I wouldn’t be holding my breath on this.
Nor should we assume that driverless cars will solve traffic problems (especially if having delivered you, they drive home again to a parking space) or pollution problems (which are down to the nature of the engine and its fuel).
And anyway, has anybody actually tried to work in a moving driverless car? Are they really smooth, or — even if you’re able to take your eyes off the road — is travel sickness a risk?
I have to admit, I can’t read for long on a bus — and I know I can’t read for long in a car when I’m a passenger — I’d imagine it’d be an issue in a driverless car.