“Driverless technology is the future. We can’t avoid it and we don’t want to.”
This bold statement was made by British Transport Minister, Claire Perry at the Driverless Vehicles Conference back in October. But Perry was not talking about Google’s driverless car prototype—she was referring to the introduction of driverless busses into the public transportation system in rural Britain.
While Google has been working hard on developing driverless cars to take over the roads, with 100 expected to be active by next year, many experts are pushing the public and the government to support driverless busses.
Mobility Thinklab’s Luca Guala recently noted that driverless cars have limitations that cannot be overcome. Frequent obstacles and interruptions on urban streets render the advantages of driverless vehicles to be obsolete. A driverless car stuck in traffic is still just a car stuck in traffic. A robot’s decisions in traffic can only be equal, or worse, than a human’s decisions.
For Perry, the advantages lie largely in the ability to enhance public transportation service in rural areas. “A major component of rural transport[ation] is the cost of the driver – and so a truly driverless bus could transform rural public transport in the future,” she explained to The Telegraph.
In Britain, it has been announced that a (unnamed) major bus company has already invested in driverless technology. Four cities will be testing it in 2015. Meanwhile, the EU-funded group, CityMobil2, has set up a pilot program for automated transportation systems across European roads. This includes 2GetThere mini-busses, which are already being tested in Italy.
Driverless cars might appeal to tech-enthusiasts and early tech-adopters, but much of the population may still feel uncertain of the technology. Others have concerns about big data while sharing a car with Google. Driverless busses, however, may be more beneficial for our day-to-day lives. The ability to have frequent and reliable public transportation can be positive for both the environment and the economy, especially when a paid-driver is not required.