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The driverless car project is futuristic and inevitable

Written by The Indian Express | Published: September 2, 2013 12:10 am

The driverless car project is futuristic and inevitable

Google made an eye-popping investment north of $250 million in taxi-hailing app Uber last week. It grabbed headlines,both because it is the online major’s biggest-ever venture capital investment,and because it put Uber’s valuation at $3.5 billion — not bad for a three-year-old start-up. But it also pointed to the seriousness of Google’s investment in its driverless car project. There are other companies testing driverless car technology,including automakers such as Nissan and General Motors,but Google may well be the one to market the first road-legal driverless car.

To that end,the Uber buy-in reflects the vision of a fleet of “robo-taxis” that could,regulatory hurdles permitting,transform urban transport systems. Taxi and car-rental services will likely become pick-up and drop-off services where the automated car can be summoned by an app (such as Uber). Long commutes may become more bearable if cars can steer themselves,and workers may opt to live farther away from the city centre or their offices if they can be productive while in transit. Such cars could also bestow the gift of greater mobility on the elderly and the differently abled.

The revolution on wheels would ensure safety,too,advocates argue. Because about 90 per cent of all automobile accidents occur due to human error,the thinking goes that if cars could drive themselves,accident rates,and fatalities,would decline. But to get there,the rules would need to be amended,which is where questions such as affixing blame in case of an accident,and ensuring the security of the software that governs such cars,become important. Yet,though the concept of the automated car seems terribly futuristic now,its inevitability seems assured.

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