Why I'm sceptical about self-drive cars

A lot of attention has recently been given to self-drive (aka "robot" cars) recently, including this very impressive video released last week of a Google Self-Drive car navigating busy city streets.

Don't get me wrong: There are clearly some enormously smart people working on self-drive cars and the technical issues may well all be solved very soon (if they haven't already been solved).

But there are two reasons I'm sceptical that we'll see a mass-adoption of self-drive cars any time soon:

Firstly, there's the whole robot-killing-humans thing. Let's assume that robot cars are 'perfect' drivers (whatever that means). There will still, inevitably, come a time when a person does something really dumb like steps out from behind a parked lorry into the path of the robot car. Even if the car performs much better than a human driver and stops as rapidly as physics allows, the human will still suffer serious injuries. In this situation, I think we can pretty much guarantee that there will be a media frenzy around the fact that a 'robot' car killed/maimed a human. The fact that it was the human's fault will be totally ignored by the media. I would suggest that this single event will cause the majority of the public to reject robot cars for a long time.

The second reason is entirely personal: I really can't see myself wanting a robot car. I actually quite enjoy driving. I also doubt I'd ever trust my own life (and the lives of my two children, wife and dog) to a robot driver (especially one that's connected to the Internet). Heck, our 2007 Ford Focus annoys me because you can really 'feel' the computer that sits between the accelerator and the fuel injectors.

Anyway... I hope I'm proved wrong and self-driving cars do make it onto the streets in large numbers. I'm just somewhat sceptical that it will happen any time soon.


Do your concerns outweigh the potential ecological/city planning benefits? I haven't looked into it too closely but imagine that we'd only need 30% of the cars we have now in order to deliver ubiquitous robot taxi service.

That is a lot of resources that can be saved and would enable better land use than parking lots.

Oh, please don't get me wrong: I definitely see that there would be benefits to having self-driving cars. I want there to be lots of self-driving cars around in the near future (although I personally can't see myself owning one; although that might change as I get more and more busy with work!). It's just that I'm sceptical that the public will embrace self-driving cars.

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