Take one look at tech news headlines, and you’d be forgiven for thinking we’re on the cusp of a huge motoring revolution.
Self-driving cars are coming, they say, and will completely change the way we get around.
We won’t need our own cars any more (just pick up your smartphone and ‘call’ a car), and accidents will become a thing of the past as poor driving habits and distraction on behalf of humans are replaced by fool-proof computer code and sensors.
Then, there are the naysayers – some of whom suggest self-driving technology will be all but finished.
Here’s why we think it’s unlikely to disrupt the driving industry any time soon:
1. People love cars
The driving industry is driven (if you’ll excuse the pun) by a collective love of cars.
Sure, not everyone is a ‘petrolhead’, but there are millions of people across the globe who love cars and driving, and for as long as that remains true, the proliferation of self-driving vehicles will struggle to gain traction against the tide of those who want to drive.
2. It’s not just about tech – it’s mainly about trust
Self-driving technology has undoubtedly come on leaps and bounds in recent years, and the tasks it’s capable of performing are mind boggling.
But that isn’t the be-all, end-all. Most of us are impressed by tech, but it takes a while to fully trust it. If that trust involves letting go of the wheel (or asking a computer to drive you somewhere), and putting your faith in lines of code and sensors, it’ll inevitably take a lot longer to build.
3. Artificial intelligence isn’t that intelligent at all
OK, we’re not going to win many developer friends with that heading, but the fact remains that artificial intelligence (AI) still relies on code and instructions to get stuff done. It isn’t capable of free thought or of being particularly creative.
Driving demands both of those human traits in abundance – particularly if it happens to be your job.
And, anyway, who actually wants AI to become self-aware? Remember what happened in the Terminator movies?
4. UK roads aren’t ready
The roads in this country already struggle under the sheer weight of traffic. We have motorways, B-roads and tiny villages that require an experienced head if they’re to be navigated successfully.
For a self-driving car to achieve the same feat consistently during the myriad of complex journeys it would need to undertake in the UK, it requires far more than ingenious AI technology.
Before self-driving can really take off, the majority of roads in this country need serious attention. And how long will that take?
5. They won’t be able to react to human instruction
If you drive regularly, think about the number of times during a single trip you have to make judgements and decisions based on instructions from other humans.
It might be a brief nod to indicate you’re free to go, or a less friendly gesticulation that you’re simply taking too long. Whatever it is, we intrinsically recognise these signals, and we’re a long, long way off a computer being able to display the same level of emotional intelligence.
Autonomous cars, AI and machine learning are all incredibly exciting developments in the digital age, but there are certain industries where they’ll struggle to gain full traction. We think driving is most certainly one of them – what about you?