Driverless cars are a “waste of time and money”

Driverless cars are a “waste of time and money”

Plans to make the UK a world centre for driverless cars are a “waste of time and money” as research suggests that the public believes they are unsafe.


PLANS TO make the UK a world centre for driverless cars are a “waste of time and money” as research suggests that the public believes they are unsafe.

In November Philip Hammond, the chancellor, announced plans to invest hundreds of millions of pounds to upgrade electric car charging facilities, which would accelerate the take-up of autonomous cars.

Research conducted for The Times suggests that almost two thirds of motorists would not buy a driverless car and almost one third would not pay extra for one. Three quarters are not confident that driverless cars will be safe to use and the risk of being hacked is their biggest worry.


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The study also shows that the public doubts the benefits of the cars and suspects the motives of the industry.

Two thirds said that driverless cars would be bad for society, and most were worried about the implications for jobs. More than half thought that carmakers were investing in the technology only out of greed and 60 per cent said that they were not doing enough to make the cars safe. In 2016 a man in Florida was killed when the autopilot on his Tesla failed to spot a lorry that was the same colour as the sky.

Christian Wolmar, a transport analyst who has written a book on the subject, said: “There is no demand for driverless cars, they are not something we need or want. The whole concept that we will end up with shared electric pods that will take us anywhere ignores the day-to-day experience of most people.

“That kind of transport might be all very well for central London but if you live five miles out of Woking you will not have a driverless pod waiting to pick you up. Even if there was one near by your neighbours might have taken it and you will have to wait half an hour for another to pootle along.

“There are so many examples of dead transport ideas because the technology doesn’t work, at least not at the right price, and there is not the infrastructure in place. The government would do much better to invest in basic technology like improving the railways or making buses more efficient than spending on a concept that is completely unproven and I think unworkable.”

Critics also question how driverless cars would be able to cope with rain, uneven road markings or traffic jams. The basic question of how a driverless car would tell traffic from a line of parked cars has yet to be satisfactorily answered, they say.

Simon McCulloch, of comparethemarket.com, which conducted the survey, said: “It seems that many people aren’t yet ready to take a leap of faith. It is surprising that so many people are adamant that they would never buy one, suggesting that the government and motor industry have a long way to go before convincing people of the merits of an autonomous future. Cyberhacking is clearly a huge concern amongst drivers, so combatting this issue will be almost as important as demonstrating the safety of the cars.”

Mr Wolmar added: “These technology companies have too much money and that is why they are investing in these fanciful ideas. They also appear to have the government wrapped around their little fingers. They don’t pay their fair share of tax and now have persuaded the chancellor that driverless cars are the next big thing when there is no demand for it.”

In November Philip Hammond, the chancellor, announced plans to invest hundreds of millions of pounds to upgrade electric car charging facilities, which would accelerate the take-up of autonomous cars.

Research conducted for The Times suggests that almost two thirds of motorists would not buy a driverless car and and almost one third would not pay extra for one. Three quarters are not confident that driverless cars will be safe to use and the risk of being hacked is their biggest worry.

The study also shows that the public doubts the benefits of the cars and suspects the motives of the industry.

Two thirds said that driverless cars would be bad for society, and most were worried about the implications for jobs. More than half thought that carmakers were investing in the technology only out of greed and 60 per cent said that they were not doing enough to make the cars safe. In 2016 a man in Florida was killed when the autopilot on his Tesla failed to spot a lorry that was the same colour as the sky.

Christian Wolmar, a transport analyst, who has written a book on the subject, said: “There is no demand for driverless cars, they are not something we need or want. The whole concept that we will end up with shared electric pods that will take us anywhere ignores the day-to-day experience of most people.

“That kind of transport might be all very well for central London but if you live five miles out of Woking you will not have a driverless pod waiting to pick you up. Even if there was one near by your neighbours might have taken it and you will have to wait half an hour for another to poodle along.

“There are so many examples of dead transport ideas because the technology doesn’t work, at least not at the right price and there is not the infrastructure in place. The government would do much better to invest in basic technology like improving the railways or making buses more efficient than spending on a concept that is completely unproven and I think unworkable.”

Critics also question how driverless cars would be able to cope with rain, uneven road markings or traffic jams. The basic question of how a driverless car would tell traffic from a line of parked cars, has yet to be satisfactorily answered, they say.

Simon McCulloch, of comparethemarket.com, which conducted the survey, said: “It seems that many people aren’t yet ready to take a leap of faith. It is surprising that so many people are adamant that they would never buy one, suggesting that the government and motor industry have a long way to go before convincing people of the merits of an autonomous future. Cyberhacking is clearly a huge concern amongst drivers, so combatting this issue will be almost as important as demonstrating the safety of the cars.”

Mr Wolmar added: “These technology companies have too much money and that is why they are investing in these fanciful ideas. They also appear to have the government wrapped around their little fingers. They don’t pay their fair share of tax and now have persuaded the chancellor that driverless cars are the next big thing when there is no demand for it.”

Andrew Ellson

This article first appeared in The Times

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