We 'drove' a self-driving Bosch car. It was boring as hell, but then that's the point

Of course, safety is a big part of the automated driving sales pitch. The UN estimates roughly 1.3 million people are killed in road accidents around the world annually. In excess of 90 per cent of those accidents are thought to be caused by human error.

It's not hard to imagine, therefore, the huge impact driverless cars could have on those statistics. However, for a company like Bosch trying to develop and market automated driving tech, improving road safety also includes making their systems failsafe.

Bosch reckons it has done just that with features like its iBooster electromechanical brake booster and ESP brake control system, both of which can independently apply the brakes and thus provide redundancy and the ability to bring the vehicle to a controlled stop.

If that's theory, what's Bosch's automated technology actually like and does it work? As ever with driverless car tech, that's a tricky question to answer even if you've just stepped out of the latest robocar.

For starters, they usually feel the same. Most are programmed to drive smoothly and serenly, to minimise any drama. Then there's the fact that most demos are carried out at private test facilities.

For Bosch like Google, Mercedes, Audi, BMW and everyone else developing driverless cars, the chicken-and-egg challenge remains. They need to get there cars out on the road to prove how safe they are, but many authorities are nervous about unleashing driverless cars until they are proven safe.

Bosch is aware that legal instruments like the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, which stipulates, "every driver shall at all times be able to control his vehicle or to guide his animals," and has been ratified by most developed nations (but not notably the UK or US), make the adoption of driverless cars,

An amendment penned by the U.N. Working Party on Road Traffic Safety allows for a car to drive itself, as long as the system "can be overridden or switched off by the driver". So there is progress being made in terms of the legislation required for driverless cars to operate.

Question marks remain, then, but the irony is that the tech is almost there, yet the political and social backing for it is not. If Bosch, Ford, Audi and others deliver thinking robocars by 2020, they may not be allowed on the roads. However, in my view, the potential benefits of driverless cars far outweigh ill-defined worries about homicidal robo-cars. I say, "welcome" to my new self-driving mechanical overlords, even if they are pretty boring to be transported in.


Technology and cars. Increasingly the twain shall meet. Which is handy, because Jeremy (Twitter) is addicted to both. Long-time tech journalist, former editor of iCar magazine and incumbent car guru for T3 magazine, Jeremy reckons in-car technology is about to go thermonuclear. No, not exploding cars. That would be silly. And dangerous. But rather an explosive period of unprecedented innovation. Enjoy the ride.