Why driverless technology will be the best thing that ever happened to cars

The choice we have to make

"Driverless cars do not need to be perfect and they won't be. They'll just be incomparably better than humans at moving people around without killing them."

There's a really clear choice we all have to make. Do we want to continue suffering large death rates on our roads due to human error (around 1,500 killed annually in the UK at current rates)? Or do we want a dramatic drop in road deaths?

Put another way, do you want 1,500 UK road deaths a year by human error? Or 15 killed by malfunctioning driverless cars? It's that multiple-orders-of-magnitude reduction that driverless cars promise.

In other words - and this is the most critical point to appreciate - driverless cars do not need to be perfect. And they won't be perfect. They'll just be massively, monumentally, incomparably better than humans at moving people around without killing them.

And let's make no bones about it. Human drivers are very, very bad. We all observe the proof of that on our roads every day.

To qualify that position – and this broader narrative - let me quickly point out that anyone who knows me will confirm that I bleed petrol when cut through. I'm about as big a car and driving enthusiast as you can get.

I drive a six-cylinder sports car with a manual gearbox and a cable-operated throttle. On a personal level abhor driver aids and digital intervention of any kind.

That's completely irrelevant to any of this other than to make it plain I'm not anti-car or anti-driver. If human-driven cars are banned – and they surely will be once everyone gets their heads around this issue - it will be a cause of significant personal sadness. But that will be as nothing to the broader benefits.

What's at stake here is quality of life for billions, not my narrow enjoyment as a car nut.

Broader benefits

As for what those broader benefits are, going into detail would require a separate story on each of the main topics. But here are some sneak previews.

Safety aside, you can completely overhaul town planning, give mobility to those who currently lack it (too old, too young, too infirm to drive), put an end to traffic jams, make the remaining time spent traveling on roads productive, massively reduce emissions and more, more, so much more.

For me, driverless cars are second only to 3D printing as a transformative technology for the next 50 years. But it won't happen if everyone freaks out the first time a driverless car goes wrong. We have to keep our eyes on the huge overall prize.

Driverless cars on TechRadar



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.