Rodney Hide: Bring on the driverless cars

Travel in driverless cars will become easy, convenient and cheap. Photo / 123RF
Travel in driverless cars will become easy, convenient and cheap. Photo / 123RF

Driverless cars can't come quick enough.

No hoons, no drivers coming at you on the wrong side of the road, no deadly distractions.

The technical and legal hurdles are huge but the past 20 years have proved technical change can upend an industry fast.

The push will be economics. Travel will become easy, convenient and cheap. It will be the cost of fuel plus a little. That's it.

No need to own, maintain or garage a car. No need to park it.

Your ride will arrive with a tap of your phone. It will whisk you to your destination and disappear to the next fare.

Each vehicle will know the speed, direction and location of every vehicle in the vicinity.

There will be accidents but they will prove exceptional.

Mistakes will happen only once. Compare that to now. We repeat the same mistakes over and over.

They are silly, simple, human mistakes that are deadly.

The road toll last year was 327. Thousands were injured and maimed.

In any other industry there would be outrage and inquiries. But we have come to accept the carnage on our roads as the price of getting about.

It was like that once for lives lost at sea, the loss of men, women and children down mines, and the fatalities through fire because an open flame was all there was to light and heat your home and cook with.

In the near future, a driverless car accident would prompt a Commission of Inquiry and a swift remedy.

There will be no acceptance of death or injury. Travelling our roads will be as safe as an ocean cruise or a flight to London.

The change to our cities and life will be dramatic.

No wasted space for the parking of cars on the side of the road. No car parks. There won't be neighbourhood auto shops.

There will simply be fleets of driverless vehicles to maintain. The vehicles will be run 24/7 and serviced accordingly.

The savings will be dramatic. There will be no drivers. Freight and people will be shifted quickly, safely and efficiently.

Driverless vehicles will transport your children to school like a taxi, cheaper than a bus.

A trip to Christchurch will be done overnight while you sleep. The fare will be the running cost plus your minuscule share of the vehicle's depreciation and maintenance.

There will be no speeding tickets. No police trying to catch us.

The investment in trains in Auckland will look as clever as if we had built canals for barges pulled by horses.

There will be designated roads so guys like me can take our V8s for a drive on Sunday.

Children will stare at our cars as if they're steam engines.

Our cars will look scary and dangerous. The next generation will view our road toll as an abomination.

Driverless cars will become everyday quicker than we think.

I just wish it could be quicker.

- Herald on Sunday

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Rodney Hide

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