DRIVERLESS CARS, labelled as the future of automobiles with Google, Apple and Tesla racing to crack a potentially multi-billion-dollar market, will not be allowed in India because they will lead to more unemployment, according to Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari. “We will not allow driverless cars in India. We don’t need it. Unemployment is a huge problem in our country. Each car gives job to a driver,” said Gadkari on Monday, while responding to queries from reporters.
“I saw in Sweden a 70-year-old man was driving a taxi. There (Western countries), they have less people. Here, we have more people and they need jobs. Driverless cars will take away those jobs. I am certain on this issue,” he said. According to a study by Boston Consulting Group, the global autonomous cars market is expected to be worth $42 billion by 2025 and $77 billion by 2035. A quarter of all cars sold could be autonomous vehicles by then, the study has said.
According to current prototype versions, such cars navigate traffic with the help of multiple inputs from GPS, and laser, infra-red and computer-vision technologies. Technology experts say autonomous cars reduce chances of collision and increase traffic efficiency. Gadkari, a proponent of electric vehicles, said he has also told global automakers that India will not reduce import duty on e-vehicles or its parts. “I have told chiefs of the auto companies recently that world-class electric vehicles can very well be manufactured in India. They are welcome to make them here under Make in India, we will not reduce the import duties,” he said.
Research on driverless cars, also known as autonomous cars, dates back to the 1920s in the US. In the 1980s, Carnegie Mellon University in the US and Mercedes-Benz in Germany worked on prototypes. But interest in the concept peaked over the last few years when Google started testing prototypes and showcased its near-ready product. Electric vehicles giant Tesla has already introduced driverless features called “autopilot” in its cars.
In 2015, during his visit to the US, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had met Tesla chief Elon Musk at the company’s headquarters in San Jose. During the meeting, the two had discussed the possibility of manufacturing affordable cars for India. Last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed industry speculation that his company was working on autonomous systems in driverless cars and called it the “mother of all AI projects”. However, driverless cars have also led to questions being raised over insurance liability, and the legal framework governing them in the transport ecosystem.