Two of the biggest themes in motor vehicles at the moment, at least as covered in the media, are a) electric vehicles and b) driverless ones.
In the case of driverless options, there has been a lot of coverage of impressive tests and statistics. However, more worryingly, very recently in the press there have been reports of a few accidents and investigations.
The causes of these accidents involving driverless vehicles are under analysis and predictably enough, there is a lot of defensiveness on the part of the driverless car technology companies. Equally, there have been some slightly hysterical accusations flying around from people saying words to the effect of “see, I told you so all along”.
At the time of writing, there seems to be no clear consensus as to how the accidents arose and discussion continues. We will make a few hopefully common sense observations though.
Firstly, it’s still not clear how one could imagine busy roads that have a mixture of automated and manually driven vehicles on them. Automated systems may be 100% reliable one day and they can happily engage with each other on that basis. However, how do they react to avoid accidents with human drivers around them making errors? This is at least reputed to be the problem behind one of the recent accidents in testing.
Secondly, it’s still far from clear just how such systems would be accepted by the clients using chauffeur driver luxury limousines. In principle, even if they entrusted their safety entirely to a system, there is the issue of engagement and change. For example, it might not be easy to simply call out to an automatic system “I’ve changed my mind, could you please take the second on the left and pull up so I can purchase a newspaper”.
For all these reasons, we suspect that chauffeur-free limousines are still a fairly long way away in real terms.