Monday, 16 January 2017

The Adoption of Self-Drive Vehicles

(Harrow, 1 March 2016)
There was a great post by TechRepublic on the state of play with self-drive cars recently.

Reece (29 October 2016) reported that the US Department of Transportation "considers the AI powering Google's driverless cars (which have already logged hundreds of thousands of self-driven miles) officially a 'driver' — marking a ground-breaking moment in the history of transportation".

I suspect that insurers may be one of the forces which pushes self-drive cars on the road and human drivers off it. At present it appears that there is significantly lower accident rate with driverless cars. Insurance is all about paying for statistically supported risk... which is why young women drivers pay a lower premium than young men.

ASIRT (n.d.) provides global statistics of "1.3 million people die in road crashes each year, [being] on average 3,287 deaths a day. An additional 20-50 million are injured or disabled" annually.

There have been very few accidents with self-drive cars, and - I think - only one serious injury (death?) for over 10m collective miles of driving between Google, Tesla and nuTonomy.

Because of this, I suspect that insurance companies will start to increase human driver premiums until the cost makes insuring a human driver a luxury.

With a great deal of new car purchases being corporate sales, Companies too will want to lower their risk. As they replace fleets, they will go with a lesser cumulative cost of replacement. It may well be that self-drive will be that replacement - lower insurance premium, less possibility of time off and lower maintenance and fuel costs for vehicles, lower health insurance premiums for employees.

Last Christmas, the Tokoyo local body said in the Economist that this coming Christmas Eve, people would be able to dial up a driverless taxi to get them home. I am not sure how far down the road they have gone. However, in Singapore, they are currently trialling 12 self-drive taxis, with - as I understand it - a plan to expand to 24 units by Christmas as they see how they work out. With only one accident thus far (a minor bump at 4km/hr).

Many cities already have driverless trains; with many more exploring the idea of driverless busses. Human error and systems failures from human involvement are increasing AI accuracy and decision-making.

Public transport and taxis being self-drive, I suspect, may become the new 'normal' on-road option quite quickly, as the technology matures.

I hope that there are enough taxis for the demand, because - providing the price was reasonable - I would much rather be driven to work than to drive myself. I don't think I am that unusual in that.

Wishing I could do something productive, instead of having to commute, is going to push self-drive along. Who wouldn't want to save the hassle of owning a car, garaging it, insuring it, cleaning it, maintaining it and parking it; versus whistling up a pod and being delivered to our door at a reasonable cost?

Providing we can trust the AI.

And so far the stats look very good for self-drive.



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