Now see here. We don’t care for change. We’re British. Look how long it took us to get over manual gearboxes. Even a very famous journalist once grumbled about ‘stupid flappy paddles’. Real men change gears with a stick. Only thanks to unrelenting determination by car makers did we finally accept that, y’know, those DCT’s aren’t too bad. High praise indeed from the British.
The trouble is, our eventual long-term grudging acceptance only serves to encourage this sort of perverse forward thinking. Thanks to the baying, capering, imbeciles who run Europe, automotive manufacturers have had to respond to all manner of cleanliness and efficiency requirements.
Now, because governments have become convinced that we are unable to think for ourselves, they have been encouraging others to develop vehicles that will surely sound the death knell of the motor car as we know it. Driverless cars.
Official persons are mad for this stuff. They can’t wait to gain control of the roads and see us all shuttling around chatting amongst ourselves, perhaps attempting simple jigsaw puzzles for amusement as we are autonomously steered to our destinations.
Sorry, but it doesn’t work like that; not with we Brits. I can confidently say that much more work is going to be needed to convince the public of the benefits of driverless vehicles. In a survey, only twenty-one percent of people in the UK said they would happy to be driven autonomously. More than half the polled people did not trust the technology and would not ride in such a vehicle. Not even for ready money, they said.
Remember, at the turn of the 20th Century we were told that those heavier-than-air machines would be all the rage but it took fifty years to really get us ‘up in one of those things’. It was only because it allowed us to be ‘holidaymakers’ and fly over to annoy the Spanish that it had any real appeal. The same will apply to driverless cars.
Vested interests say differently. They tell us that the benefits of driverless car technology are huge. There will be fewer accidents and, in time, that may prove to be so but there’s a long way to go before the British mentality will be convinced.
There will be improved productivity, allegedly; there will be increased trade it seems, but no one is saying why this will be so. If you take away all the regular cars and replace them with autonomous vehicles we are left with the same number of cars. We won’t have both. In our cynical way we think, ‘Well, they would say that wouldn’t they’?
Our government has pledged (they are very good at making pledges but not, unlike say, laxative testers, at following through) to ensure that correctly administered insurance is available to users of driverless cars but it is clear that there is still a long way to go to increase public confidence in the effectiveness and safety benefits of this new-fangled technology.
Some things, such as a self-parking and automatic braking, are already with us so it is to be expected that public perceptions will change over time. Government and companies such as Google (or Tax-Free Google as it is now known here), Ford and Uber are all championing driverless car technology, but it is going to be a long, hard – and probably generational – road to convince the Great British motorist. The trouble is, I don’t think that we will have a choice in the long run. Harrumph! Geoff Maxted