Uber Is Putting Self-Driving Volvos In Pittsburgh. It Won’t End Well.

Uber is Bringing A Fleet Of Self-Driving Volvos To Pittsburgh, but they will be starting the transition off with human drivers. After all, Uber wants:

… to replace Uber’s more than 1 million human drivers with robot drivers – as quickly as possible.

Now, I’ve lived in a few big cities, and I also had the pleasure of being a professional driver in one. Which is a somewhat grandiose way of saying “I delivered electrical supplies to contractors in London for a year”.

Anyway, here’s what will happen the moment they try completely autonomous vehicles as people delivery systems in a big city:

No one, let alone cab drivers are going to let them into traffic. Knowing a vehicle is programmed to to avoid a collision is what will kill autonomous cars in the long run, and what will kill this little experiment very quickly. Believe me, I’ve sat in traffic as a member of the “White Van Man” stereotype known for aggressive driving, yet still ended up stuck while trying to pull out of a side street because no one would let me in. We invented the idea of picking out the most expensive car in traffic to pull out of on the basis that’s the driver that wants a dent the least in their car. How do you think a car with programmed to stop before a crash is going to make it’s way through peak traffic?  

I can tell you. Long enough for taggers to spray can the crap out of it. It might even be some groups of cab drivers with the paint can, after all it’s going to be very easy to box one in with a couple of cars, and while it auto dials the police it’ll take seconds to do some satirical and expensive graffiti art that will take the vehicle off the road for a few days.

Wether the graffiti prediction comes true or not, it’ll soon become apparent to Uber customers that it’ll be far quicker to get across a city with a human driver. A thinking person motivated by financial compensation to complete the journey as quickly as possible so they can move onto the next fare.

In the long term that’s what will kill the adoption rate in cities of rich early adopters such as Los Angeles. A transition isn’t going to work so it would take a switch one day from driven cars to driverless cars. Once people realise that actual drivers will take advantage of vehicles automatically braking so it causes them rough and slow journeys to work and back, it won’t take long for those early adopters to be back texting and driving in traffic again.

I normally don’t hit up on the news, but I think it’s worth registering this prediction and then seeing how things play out.

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