Driverless Cars: Where Have All The Drivers Gone?

March 11, 2016

Martin Belham of the Guardian recently wrote a piece about driverless cars, how wonderful they are and how one day we will wonder how we ever did without them.

Martin is a nice and very clever man. I wish him well. But to me his rosy picture seemed to have one important thing missing.

For example, if Uber (as reported) invests heavily in driverless vehicles, once they’ve scooped up enormous amounts of passenger data, they could dispense with drivers altogether. If Uber become a very dominant player in this market (and their aggressive tactics are well documented) lots of drivers who now work for Uber may be seeking alternative employment. Not to mention those black cab drivers who might see their jobs disappear as driverless firms dominate.

A privatised transport system – geolocation data owned by Google, passenger data owned by Uber, with no drivers. What impact would this have on public transport? On people who don’t have disposable income to go everywhere by taxi? How should it be regulated? Who uses the bus lanes?

Martin’s picture of the future is missing the large gangs of young men (and women) hanging around on street corners because they can’t get a job driving a car or a lorry.

The other odd thing about Martin’s piece is this sentence:

“The business that buys a fleet of driverless cars knows that staff can be doing paperwork between meetings while they travel, for maximum efficiency.”

So we will have driverless cars in this future. But we will still be doing “paperwork” and having “meetings”.

No matter how shiny the future, organisations are as bureaucratic as ever, and as obsessed as ever with “efficiency” while continuing to have pointless meetings…

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