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Topic Title: E&T magazine - Debate - Driverless cars are the future
Topic Summary: Should we all look forward to or dread a future with driverless cars on the road?
Created On: 15 October 2013 04:07 PM
Status: Read Only
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 15 October 2013 04:07 PM
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A future with driverless cars on the road is one to look forward to and embrace.

A future with driverless cars on the road is not one to look forward to and embrace.

The argument for:
Opportunities being developed by software to control vehicles, even going so far as to deliver driverless vehicles, are going to add a spectrum of possibility for drivers today. But it's going to be sector-specific and it will depend on what you are looking for.

Many people when they are driving are really only looking to get from A to B in the easiest way, and there is definitely a benefit for them if they can do something else instead of driving. In that sense, driveless cars will make being in a car a more relaxing experience, more akin to being in a train (if the train's not too full, that is).

If we are commuting to, or navigating around, a big city, driving can be stressful. Now, if emerging car technology can reduce stress and increase safety then we are clearly on to a good thing. But this is a specific need. At other times - say, I want to go out for a recreational drive in the countryside in my open-top sportscar in the summer - well that's very different and I won't want a driverless vehicle to tell me how to enjoy myself. But for the day to day stuff, I want one.

One of the most common objections to the scenario I'm describing is that a city full of driverless cars will result in carnage, a free-for-all that looks something like the dodgems when the fair comes to town. If you cast your mind back to when Stansted Airport was built everyone was horrified by the innovation of driverless trains. But no one's worried about that now. Of course, the technology will be different for cars, and the issues at stake on the road are more complex. But when you think of the level control software has reached in, say, power stations, then we'll have no real problems in future.

The argument against:
Technology is, clearly, an integral part of every modern car on the road today. In a world of continuous development and improvement, the 'flat earth' contention that technological advancement should be frozen at an arbitrary point in time clearly cannot stand. The use of the latest safety technologies, created to protect car occupants and pedestrians, cannot be coherently argued against.

However, as a maker of luxurious bespoke sports cars, a key ingredient in any Aston Martin is the experience it delivers to its driver. The idea that the brand would create a sports car in which the driver was required to offer minimal or no input into the process of driving - beyond the requirement of actually being present in the car - simply does not accord with the Aston Martin ethos.

The experience of driving an Aston Martin is in no small part the secret of the brand's enduring appeal. Think of it, perhaps, like this: listening to your favourite symphony via an MP3 is a pleasant experience, but listening to it played live by a world-class orchestra in a great concert hall is an experience of an entirely different magnitude.

Technology, in an Aston Martin context, is there to support the driver, rather than replace him, or her. New features must be introduced in such a way as to support the look of the car, rather than overpower it. Innovations should not necessarily be seen as a new 'feature' of the car but, rather, an adjunct to the existing design.
 21 October 2013 02:52 PM
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The reliability of the sensors in all conditions, including muddy conditions, heavy spray and bad weather conditions, will be critical to making driverless cars a safe and practical proposition.

I think we should concentrate on designing and running driverless trains on the rail network first, as this is a much easier goal for engineers to achieve safely within the next 10 years or so.

I don't say that research into driverless cars should stop, or that supervised trials should not be allowed to go ahead on our roads under regulatory supervision. I just think we have to be realistic on the timescales.

James Arathoon

James Arathoon
 23 October 2013 09:58 AM
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I was very disappointed to read the 'case' against driverless cars, put forward by the man from Aston Martin. Rather than present meaningful arguments, it just appeared to be a PR job for Aston Martin, or indeed any sports car. What was needed was an intelligently argued examination of the current and projected technology coupled with its social, environmental and economic impact. Perhaps you can readdress this, with someone who will consider these issues? (The post by James Arathoon was a much more realistic argument.)

David Hoult
 23 October 2013 12:43 PM
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Thoroughly agree with David. The "against" argument was answering a completely different question: "Is it in Aston Martin's business strategy to produce driverless cars?".

Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 23 October 2013 08:07 PM
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I like the idea.

Essentially another hour in bed as I curl up in the backseat instead of stuttering along the motorway in the pitch black and pouring rain in the morning.
 24 October 2013 07:49 AM
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I wonder what will happen when a driverless car is in range of one of these?

Best regards

 24 October 2013 10:22 AM
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Never mind driverless cars!

What happens if it is operated from a bridge over a motorway!

"Operators of RF Safe-Stop won't need specialist training as e2v is aiming for a system that that allows the user to do nothing more complicated than push a red button when the target is in range."


James Arathoon
 28 October 2013 02:37 AM
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Ahem ... !

I don't understand? What is wrong with the existing facilities for enjoying the benefits of driverless vehicles?

Mind you, they don't have such romantic names but there are long existing ones namely: taxis , trains and bicycles.

Ken Green

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