This is something I’ve wanted to write about and challenge ever since I read this recent Bonus Banana article in Forbes about Google’s driverless car: http://www.forbes.com/sites/chunkamui/2013/01/22/f...
Forbes is one of my favorite publications. To be blunt, the slobbering love affair that this writer has with the driverless car is painful to read. His “analysis” is faulty right from the beginning, as he simply accepts Google’s projections on cost and benefit with no challenge. I realize anyone can have an argument about assumptions and you’d expect them to be on the generous side.
But really? A 90% reduction in traffic accidents and fatalities? Ninety percent?
It’s not that I don’t like the idea of a driverless car, or that it can’t be done. It’s a noble and worthwhile pursuit. But as the analysis takes shape based on Google’s truly incredible projections, Forbes is forgetting one of the most important questions—”How?”
How exactly will having a driverless car result in a 90% reduction in accidents and deaths? I get that removing the human element from driving is supposed to cut it down, but how will that work in the interim period between all-human drivers and all-driverless cars? Won’t there be more accidents, not less, as we shift between systems? Automated systems aren’t foolproof by any means, and somebody still has to monitor it and repair it.
“Come on Flesh, it’s Google—it won’t need that much monitoring,” I can hear the fans interject. “It’ll just work.” Really? Can you explain how?
Another extrapolation from the series here is that we won’t have to purchase our own cars anymore. “The car will just come to you,” the article promises. How?
Another claim is that the driverless car will dramatically reduce congestion, eliminating the need for traffic lights. How? Will the car be smaller? Go faster? Be driven by satellite? What about parking? Pedestrians crossing?
And also since the Google car will be able to see in the dark, there won’t be any more need for streetlights. How, and why? Streetlights and their early counterparts, gaslights, weren’t developed with cars in mind—they were installed to reduce crime and enable people to stay out later, so that the workday didn’t have to end with sunset. Just because the car doesn’t need outdoor lighting doesn’t mean we won’t, unless we plan on spending our entire waking lives in them.
Again, I have zero problem with the driverless car—more power to it, and good luck to Google. What I take issue with is a serious business writer melting over this like a schoolgirl at a One Direction concert. He ought to know better. He ought to ask how.