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Are Driverless Cars The Future Of Motoring?

May 20, 2017

By Paul Homewood





I have been working around to doing a post on driverless cars for a while now.

It is certainly something that the UK Government is pushing hard for, for whatever reason.

On Sunday, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard ran this piece:



No more petrol or diesel cars, buses, or trucks will be sold anywhere in the world within eight years. The entire market for land transport will switch to electrification, leading to a collapse of oil prices and the demise of the petroleum industry as we have known it for a century.

This is the futuristic forecast by Stanford University economist Tony Seba. His report, with the deceptively bland title Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030, has gone viral in green circles and is causing spasms of anxiety in the established industries.

Prof Seba’s premise is that people will stop driving altogether. They will switch en  masse to self-drive electric vehicles (EVs) that are ten times cheaper to run than fossil-based cars, with a near-zero marginal cost of fuel and an expected lifespan of 1m miles.

Only nostalgics will cling to the old habit of car ownership. The rest will adapt to vehicles on demand. It will become harder to find a petrol station, spares, or anybody to fix the 2,000 moving parts that bedevil the internal combustion engine. Dealers will disappear by 2024.

Cities will ban human drivers once the data confirms how dangerous they can be behind a wheel. This will spread to suburbs, and then beyond. There will be a “mass stranding of existing vehicles”. The value of second-hard cars will plunge. You will have to pay to dispose of your old vehicle.


The article received a pretty scathing response from many commenters, like:






Seba himself is apparently an instructor in Entrepreneurship, Disruption and Clean Energy at Stanford’s Continuing Studies Program, in other words, a bit of a fruit loop.


We can safely dismiss the possibility of electric cars making any real inroads in the foreseeable future, despite AEP’s fake graph (note the misleading y-axis!). As we know, there is very little consumer interest in them, and this is unlikely to change soon.




But what about driverless cars?

What follows is a bit of blue sky thinking. I do not claim to know all of the technical ins and outs, nor any of the answers.

But I want to throw up some of the potential obstacles and challenges for debate.

Much of this is subjective, and cannot be measured in pounds, shillings and pence, or for that matter computer modelling. The bottom line is, why would people want to give up their cars to be driven around by a robot?



How many cars?

In the UK, there are currently around 31.7 million cars in the UK, about one for every two people.

If they were to be replaced driverless vehicles, how many would we need?

It is claimed that far fewer would be required, the logic being that we only use our cars for a few hours everyday. So, if we use them on average for 4 hours, in theory one car could be used by six different people.

However, this is fallacious, since many people use their cars at the same time of day, rush hour. Being generous, we could assume that we would only need 80% of current cars, so about 25 million.

We could, of course, make do with many less if we walked, cycled or took public transport a lot more, but this is not the point.

And one consequence of a smaller fleet would be that we would be unlikely to have our driverless car on the doorstep when we needed it. Imagine dropping into work half an hour late, and telling the boss that your Google car turned up late.



At what cost?

Working on that 25 million figure, how much would they all cost?

We know that electric cars are still considerable dearer than petrol/diesel. For instance, the Nissan Leaf starts at £26000, if you ignore the government subsidy of £4500, and this is a pretty basic car.

Driverless cars will need all of the extra equipment, cameras, computers etc, so we could easily be looking at £30K, unless we are expected to travel round in tiny bubble cars.

Based on these figures, 25 million cars would cost £750 billion. And who is expected to foot the bill for this?

Governments certainly could not afford it, and neither could even Google or Apple, even with their vast wealth. Bear in mind as well that we are just talking one country here, the UK.

If finance was to come from banks, you can guarantee that, as customers, we would all have to pay through the nose for using them.


What would it cost to hire one?

We’re into guessing territory here, but it currently costs around £40/day to hire an average conventional mid-sized vehicle.

It is claimed that driverless cars will work out much cheaper, because they might run for 1 million miles. That reminds me of Trigger’s broom!

As Fools and Horses fans may recall, Trigger had been a road sweeper for 20 years, and still had his original broom. It had only needed 14 new handles and 17 new heads!

The car might last 1 million miles, but the battery, motor transmission, brakes etc etc won’t last anywhere near as long. And, no doubt, the body will have rusted away long before.

It is also a mistake to calculate costs just on the car’s direct cost, as we would as private buyers. When it is our own car, we clean it, check the oil and tyres, fill up with petrol, arrange tax and insurance, and do all of the other things necessary to keep it on the road ourselves. As it is us, there is no cost.

Hire cars don’t have this luxury. Driverless cars are likely to be even more exposed to extra costs, as there would need to be a sophisticated system to administer the whole operation.

Even something as simple as keeping the car clean won’t come cheap. After all, we would not want our Google car to turn up on the doorstep with, as one commenter delicately put it, a dirty nappy in the back. Or packets of crisps, mud or cigarette ash. If the car was used by six different users each day, potentially somebody (or something) would need to give it at least a rudimentary hoover out every time.

And on top of all this is the cost of finance and profit margin, not to mention electricity.

But let’s stick with the figure of £40/day. If I wanted one to take me to work, it would probably take 30 minutes to get to me, another 30 minutes to get to work, and probably another 30 minutes to go back to depot. In total, an hour and a half.

With cleaning and general turn around time, we could be looking at two hours in total.

The car would probably only be in regular demand for 12 hours each day, and there would doubtlessly be times in that period when nobody needed it. It might therefore, for the sake of argument, generate six hires a day. At £40/day, that comes to £7/trip. As I also want to go home from work at night, this would cost me £14/day.

If I bought a new mid-sized diesel, I would probably be looking at an annual cost of about £5000 for everything except petrol – in other words, roughly £14/day. For that, I have my own car which I can use whenever I want, without the hassle of booking one.

So where is the incentive in switching to driverless cars?

Much is made of the fact that running costs, ie petrol, are higher than in an electric car. As most of you will know, I am an accountant and budget my expenses very carefully! I do about 12000 miles a year, and spend £1500 a year on diesel. About half of this is fuel duty, which we would all have to pay in the form of another tax if electric cars take over.

Excluding this tax, I am therefore only spending £2/day on fuel. I am certainly not going to get worked up over that.



Where would they all be parked?

One point that is often ignored is just where all of these millions of driverless cars would be kept.

Obviously our own cars tend to be kept in our garages, drives or roadside. Driverless cars would need some sort of central facility where they could be recharged, cleaned, checked, maintained and monitored. But a huge amount of space would be needed.

My local city of Sheffield has a population of 1.6 million (metro area). If we pro-rata down the national figure of 25 million cars, Sheffield’s share would be about 600,000. I simply can’t visualise where all of these could such a huge number of cars could be stored.

It would be equivalent to about 1000 multi-storey car parks. Alternatively, Stansted Airport has 30,000 car park spaces, spread over three parks. Imagine multiplying that by twenty.

It is not just a question of finding the space, particularly when land is so much in demand for houses etc. All of these driverless parks would need to have charging points for each car, along with the necessary infrastructure of access roads, security, as well as the cost of building the car park in the first place.

The cost of all of this would be absolutely astronomical. Again, I ask, who is going to pay for it all?



Political considerations

You may be getting the impression that we are half way to cloud cuckoo land.

But, apart from these inconvenient facts, there are some strong political factors at play here.

The car industry in the UK, not to mention Germany, US and others in the West, has built up an enviable reputation for quality,which together with its accumulated experience and technical knowhow gives it a massive competitive advantage on a global level.

Are the UK, German or US governments going to throw this all away?

In the new world of driverless cars, the rules will have changed. Western car makers will no longer hold sway. Instead, the new technology is likely to be dominated by low cost Asian manufacturers, together with the digital giants.

This fact alone will ensure that the government won’t do anything to upset the apple cart. The UK government has, of course, been pushing for development of electric cars, because it wants UK manufacturers to lead the field.

But there is no guarantee that they would be able to do that with the advent of driverless cars.


There is also the issue of fuel duty, which currently brings in £28 billion for the government, a number which is projected to carry on growing for the next five years.

It would be political suicide for any government to have to find a new way of raising this revenue, if cars went all electric. Whatever way they found, there would be so many losers as to virtually guarantee it losing the next election and the one after that.

It seems odd then that the government has been encouraging the uptake of electric vehicles, for instance by subsidising purchases prices and vehicle duty. In part, I believe, the government has felt the need to be seen to be “doing something”. I suspect they realise that it will take many years for electric cars to make any serious inroads, and will therefore be a problem for their successors.




The driver

“Clever” people like AEP and the clown Seba tend to look at these matters from a theoretical point of view. To them, driverless cars are the new technology and they are going to save us from global warming, so surely everybody would want them.

But this is not about theory, it is about what drivers themselves want, which is something that is highly subjective.

For most people, a car offers the freedom to go where you want, when you want, something driverless cars cannot match.

To have to book a car, which could take a while to arrive, every time you wanted to go somewhere, would definitely put driverless technology at a big disadvantage.

Then there is the cost. It’s a nice day today, so we might decide on the spur of the moment to go out for the day. Would I make the same decision if I was faced with a £40 bill? Almost certainly not.

And what of those who use their cars at weekends to go to golf, take the kids to their various activities, pop to the shops and all of the other little trips? Do we book a car for each trip, or just pay for the whole day? Either way, it is all grossly inconvenient and extremely costly.

In short, I cannot see many people with cars who would willingly give them up voluntarily.

  1. Graeme No.3 permalink
    May 20, 2017 10:54 am

    I expect that when Government Ministers are told that driverless cars aren’t available for 45minutes and they will have to wait as well as detour to the nearby depressed township to be filled up for the trip (for greater efficiency) that a certain lack of enthusiasm will creep in.

    • mothcatcher permalink
      May 20, 2017 3:46 pm

      I am inclined to be more sympathetic to the ideas expressed by this fellow, Graeme. The driverless car idea is going to progress a lot further and faster than many now expect. Electric power, maybe not so fast, although in the long term the two will go together quite naturally. Only the timescale that he mentions is badly wrong, but I see it as quite feasible by the end of the century. Once the infrastructure necessary for this kind of scenario gets going it will give a big impetus to both. Grid-distributed transport power makes a lot of sense in population-dense areas but will extend rurally much more slowly, in much the same way as public transport becomes the default in the centre of cities today

      The automotive construction and maintenance industries will adapt in step, and although the price of oil may fall even further, that’s not really going to be a problem The regret in all this for a libertarian like me is that I see the private car as one of our greatest personal freedoms, and though I could come to love a private driverless car, I see it as yet another opportunity for monitoring, control, and taxation from the ruling elite.

  2. Keitho permalink
    May 20, 2017 10:56 am

    In my opinion the reason for the British government pushing autonomous vehicles is simply to increase the carrying capacity of the roads. They can travel much closer together more safely than standard vehicles. They are easily managed by wave traffic control systems.

    Finally people will become much less attached to their vehicles and shift to ride purchases thus reducing the overall vehicle population. Of course this will have implications for the economy at large but we are already being prepped for the dislocations from AI and robotics so this won’t be too difficult to adapt to.

  3. John Smith permalink
    May 20, 2017 11:00 am

    Great post Paul. I first read this guff in The Telegraph when it first appeared and I was gobsmacked at the total stupidity of it all. I did not know where to start, so it is great to see someone who knows about statistics rip it all apart.

  4. Allan M permalink
    May 20, 2017 11:02 am

    You haven’t mentioned that some of us actually enjoy driving!

  5. Dung permalink
    May 20, 2017 11:05 am

    Paul has dealt with the objective case for the electric driverless car; there is no case!
    Subjectively: I simply do not want to ride around in something I am not personally in control of and I will vote against any political party that tries to force this upon me.
    Keitho if you want to drive these cars then I have no objection (until you get in my way of course) but I will never accept it.

    • Keitho permalink
      May 20, 2017 12:42 pm

      Not that I want to use one Dung, just that I see the rationale behind these Noddy Cars. Britain is gridlocked already and it just gets worse and the Brits won’t sort it out by building proper roads because it would just be insanely expensive.

      Of course they could have kept their railway system in place but Dr Beeching had other ideas.

      • Dung permalink
        May 20, 2017 1:56 pm

        Why do you think roads are gridlocked?
        Does it have anything to do with immigration not being controlled?
        Have government traffic controls made it worse?
        How about the speed reductions which means that every car that joins a motorway has to stay on it longer?
        Why should I have to move to a driverless car because of the governments messed up policies?

      • Keitho permalink
        May 20, 2017 5:25 pm

        Then you would need to vote out the PTB because they will make us all bend to their will. Even Nigel seems to have moved on and abandoned us so who will represent us?

    • Derek Buxton permalink
      May 21, 2017 1:26 pm

      Lunacy on viagra! A driverless car would be against the Law, it is not under the driver’s control at any time. Then, who do you sue if you are hit by a driverless car? the Sunday Telegraph has today got it correct, they point out that without the car most people would not be able to get to where they want or need to be. Public transport is a joke….if it were not so tragic, people are going to die!

    • gallopingcamel permalink
      May 22, 2017 3:29 am

      While I am convinced that driverless cars will have an immense influence within the next twenty years there will always be some folks (like Dung) who prefer to drive their own vehicles. We must make sure that Americans will always be able to make such choices.

  6. quaesoveritas permalink
    May 20, 2017 11:10 am

    Speaking as a non-driver, I would welcome driverless cars, assuming I don’t need a drivers licence anyway to not drive a driverless car!
    Unfortunately, I can”t see it happening.

    • A C Osborn permalink
      May 20, 2017 12:59 pm

      How would it be different from a Taxi?

      • quaesoveritas permalink
        May 20, 2017 1:16 pm

        I envisage a car which I would own, would always be at my disposal and which I could go anywhere I wanted.
        i,e, replacing current car ownership with cars you didn’t have to drive.
        Otherwise it would be driverless taxi’s rather than driverless cars.

  7. A C Osborn permalink
    May 20, 2017 11:18 am

    You left off a few other negatives Paul.
    1. Where is the Electricity going to come from, The grid is creaking now without adding that burden on to it.
    2. Unemployment, Taxi Drivers, Van Drivers, Garage Mechanics and Fueling personnel, the whole petrol/deisel industry (but not petrochemicals). What will they do with the Petrol/deisel that is created while they make all the other petrochemicals & plastics etc.
    To the Greens Petrochemicals will be replaced by Synthetics, at even greater costs.
    3. What will they do with the current 31 Million cars?

    I had a discussion with a Green Fanatic over on Euan’s forum and they could not care less about peoples livelihoods, how to pay for it or any other negatives. All they could see was the benifit of taking away our cars. Mind you there were a few others who agreed with her.

    • HotScot permalink
      May 20, 2017 12:23 pm

      Matt Ridley tells us we would have to build 350,000 wind turbines a year globally, just to keep up with growing electricity demand over the next 50 years or so. It doesn’t deal with our current needs. The equivalent to half the entire land mass of Russia devoted to wind farms.

      And the late Dr. David Mackay, a self confessed greenie, does a comprehensive demolition job on renewable just using some simple arithmetic. I’m sure you have all seen it but it’s worth watching again for the entertainment value.

      But I’m sure they’re both wrong, cos’ the greens tell us it’ll be easy.

    • gallopingcamel permalink
      May 22, 2017 3:35 am

      Innovation is disruptive. Jobs are lost and new jobs are created.

      Queen Elizabeth ! may have delayed the Industrial Revolution by 140 years because she suppressed knitting machines that would have destroyed the jobs of many thousands of her subjects:
      See “Why Nations Fail” by Acemoglu and Robinson

  8. May 20, 2017 12:01 pm

    Driverless cars are computer driven machines. Machines break down. Software code can be corrupted or worse hacked. This can lead to accidents and accidents lead to lawsuits. Lawsuits lead to a backlash on the originators of the technology, manufacturers of the vehicles, and the vehicle rental companies. These will produce million dollar/billion dollar lawsuits.
    Then you have the people who will come out of the woodwork and claim the radar used in driverless cars has caused their cancer.
    The concept requires that battery technology exists. Batteries can be very expensive. When you pack tremendous energy into a battery, they can burn and explode. So will the vehicle be safe when it slides on an icy road and hits a tree.
    The mindset of the individuals that push this technology seem to reside in large futuristic cities. They are unfamiliar with the real world and those that live in the countryside.
    I am perfectly happy driving my car. It gives me great freedom to go anywhere, whenever I want. Driverless cars will take that freedom away.

    • Keitho permalink
      May 22, 2017 9:24 am

      Let’s not overlook the benefit to the cops. They could remotely disable one, or many, cars at will. In fact a government could immobilize everybody with just the push of a button. A bit like taking away our guns so they can bend us to their will.

      It really is a totalitarian plan, rather like cell phones, facebook, credit cards and the like. That said, this is going to happen because it suits the PTB perfectly.

  9. TinyCO2 permalink
    May 20, 2017 12:05 pm

    It doesn’t take long or an expert such as yourself to poke holes in these grand plans. The question has to be, why do they make the headlines? Or worse, policy? It’s as if there are no people with even rudimentary logic in climate change planning.

    It’s not just this loon. I read a report a few years ago by COIN. One of the suggestions was for mass car sharing, and there didn’t seem to be any thought about whether the panel member who had come up with the idea would themselves be sharing a car any time soon. A list of barriers I pointed out were just dismissed as petty objections.

    Many of the goals for CO2 reduction are clearly physically impossible in the time frames attached, never mind the technology, cost, materials and skilled workers.

  10. HotScot permalink
    May 20, 2017 12:12 pm

    How quaint. Let me just hop aboard my Jetson flying car and I’ll pay this guy a little visit. I mean he’s so last century.

  11. May 20, 2017 12:14 pm

    Why are we discussing this. It is nonsense.

  12. May 20, 2017 12:18 pm

    Another reason those in the “westminster Bubble” are in favour of this sort of thing is public transport. In London and many other major cities there are joined up public transport networks. Once you venture out into rural areas it becomes much more difficult to get around. Not too many tubes on Dartmoor, or even buses? The rural bus networks are also being drastically curtailed and I’ve yet to see a an electric bus on the Plymouth to Coventry route.
    If all the trains are converted to Electric, where is all the additional power going to come from or are they going to mount Windmills on the top of the HS” so it has perpetual motion!!! :-).

    • catweazle666 permalink
      May 20, 2017 1:37 pm

      ” In London and many other major cities there are joined up public transport networks.”

      Until the staff all go on strike…

  13. Athelstan permalink
    May 20, 2017 12:24 pm

    In days of yore, diesel was the saviour of the world,now not so much.

    We witness the opening gambit ie making twelve million diesel autos obsolete [± here in the UK] all thanks to dodgy statistics [air pollution!!] ‘deaths’ and [TAXPAYER SUBSIDY] for perfectly decent cars – how green does it get, huh?

    Stapping the EUropeans, all done through ever more draconian legal device.

    We know full well that, if the will is there, if the German car industry allows for it and via the emissions standards jiggerypokery – anything but anything is possible if and when, the NWO – ordains it. Fast track, to, the proles will have to lump it and they will – apart from the French, who’ll stick to their Citroen’s and Renaults until the parts run out and that can be arranged – no doubt.

    Kids can’t afford cars like it was once. So many old bangers are scrapped – if it ain’t registered then it must be – dat’s de law – now. Once upon a time, cars were plentiful, cheap [relatively] and easy to get onto the road, in every facet of registering, being able to afford learning to drive, MOT, insurance, fuel – driving a car for a kid is at parents expense, you can’t pass your test with a couple of lessons and buy an old banger for £100, like back in the day. Thus, many kids [have to] forgo the pleasure and experience of ‘doing it yoursel’ – well you know what I mean. More, kids these days just seem less able to think for themselves ie they’ll do as they are told to – “driverless electric cars for hire?” mmmm yes pleeze sir! Though the headbangers who work for Compo – big Len’s “UNITE” little and very useless idiots and helpers society all go, by bus.

    And the cynic in me also posits, if these bubble cars are manufactured to be so long lasting……the great cartels and ‘planned obsolescence’ [look it up] – where is the ‘drive’ if you’ll excuse the pun to enable more people to buy more cars? Or, is that where mass immigration comes into the picture as Africa comes north and Asia moves west?

    Maybe, this time the people will really turn round and tell TPTB to foxtrot oscar, because it is about time it happened, and most of us, we all like being manually in control ie – driving.

    Oh and AEP, I don’t know where he has put his brain but I can guess and it’s a very dark place, maybe he’s taken the Brussels shilling – Berlin €DMk more like it.

    • May 21, 2017 11:52 am

      Nice reply, someone who has thought a little more deeply about this. Cars were a great part of freedom as was owning a horse before that. The elites, or rulers, call them what you like don’t like the loss of control. Controlling our movements whilst pretending we are free is at the heart of all this.

      One area no I don’t think has mentioned is what happens if we get a cosmic event such as the last Carrington Event, something more than likely now the sun is going into Grand minimum. Everything electronic or electrical will be fried and we will not have taught our youngsters how to make things work. No this is yet another step on the way to disaster, as has happened rather more often than the so called experts will allow us to believe.

    • tom0mason permalink
      May 22, 2017 10:04 am

      In days of yore, we put a Tiger in the tank to get the vehicle to go.
      These days government wants us to put a shilling in the slot for more green sludge.

  14. May 20, 2017 12:37 pm

    ‘The bottom line is, why would people want to give up their cars to be driven around by a robot?’

    There are any number of ways people could be pushed into it, e.g. by economics (tax, insurance, tolls etc.) or by law changes. But in democracies who would support parties proposing such moves?

    • gallopingcamel permalink
      May 22, 2017 3:58 am

      Innovations such as Uber already make owning a car less attractive. Driverless cars will provide even stronger economic reasons for old people (like me) to get rid of their cars…..nobody will have to hold a gun to my head.

      As the percentage of car owners falls the effect on our society will be immense. The number of active vehicles may not change much but the number of passive vehicles will fall dramatically. Many streets will have two more traffic lanes as the lines of parked vehicles vanish. Likewise in residential neighborhoods that lack garages or car ports.

      Manufacturing companies will produce fewer but more expensive automobiles. Few car dealerships will survive.

      It won’t matter what political parties think. Many politicians and millions of taxi drivers did not like Uber but there is no stopping an idea whose time has come.

      • May 22, 2017 9:24 pm

        The problem with Uber is they pay no tax. They are a Global Company not paying their way in society. The burden of paying is falling on working people as always, but they are not sharing in the benefits. I think Uber is highlighting what is wrong with globalisation, and the Uber model only works if the drivers make nothing, unlike a current London Taxi driver who needs to make a decent living. Uber is more financial innovation than transport innovation IMHO.

  15. rwoollaston permalink
    May 20, 2017 12:44 pm

    One of the big questions about driverless cars is that of back-up in case of failure. This would require the driver to assume control of the vehicle. Yet, if they have spent 99% of the time being driven around by a robot, will they still have the skills, responses and awareness needed to pilot a vehicle safely?

    My fear is that, like the renewables movement, the driverless movement is another government invention which will be remorselessly rolled out. Kids will grow up believing the driving is ‘bad’ and any evidence that counters the initiative will be mocked or disregarded by those that ‘know.’

    And – hey – I love driving. I’ve just come back from a visit to Barcelona to watch the Spanish Grand Prix in my Lotus. I absolutely loved it.

  16. PMC permalink
    May 20, 2017 1:21 pm

    And what about the zillions of tons of raw materials needed to make all these cars?
    Take Lithium and Cobalt – two of the crucial materials for the Tesla Lithium Ion batteries.

    It takes 63 kgs of Lithium for every Li-Ion battery in a Tesla ‘S’ model (the same amount as in 10,000 mobile phones). There are growing supply problems with Lithium; current US lithium production is 1000 tons per annum!

    Cobalt. Supply situation = hilarious! An estimated 65% of global cobalt supplies comes from that paragon of stable democracy – the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Guess what will happen to future cobalt prices when this irredeemably corrupt nation discovers that it has the world by the proverbial. And, there are also looming supply problems with cobalt.

  17. May 20, 2017 1:36 pm

    Having looked at the RethinkX site where this comes from, I really do not think this snake oil is worth downloading.

  18. Kelvin Vaughan permalink
    May 20, 2017 1:40 pm

    Just imagine ransomeware on a driverless car. Your going over the cliff unless you pay me.

    • Athelstan permalink
      May 20, 2017 3:39 pm

      A good point, worrying and not so good – really.

    • May 20, 2017 7:15 pm

      Just imagine a driverless car with Satnav and explosives.

  19. catweazle666 permalink
    May 20, 2017 1:40 pm

    Tesla Model S Hits Barrier With Autopilot ON


    • gallopingcamel permalink
      May 22, 2017 4:06 am

      Innovation is disruptive. Jobs are lost and new jobs are created.

      Queen Elizabeth ! may have delayed the Industrial Revolution by 140 years because she suppressed knitting machines that would have destroyed the jobs of many thousands of her subjects:
      See “Why Nations Fail” by Acemoglu and Robinson

    • gallopingcamel permalink
      May 22, 2017 4:14 am

      That QE1 comment is not relevant. Somehow one of my earlier comments got duplicated.

      I meant to thank you for that video showing that there are a few problems to be ironed out before we can trust out lives to driverless cars.

  20. Sam Duncan permalink
    May 20, 2017 3:28 pm

    “No more petrol or diesel cars, buses, or trucks will be sold anywhere in the world within eight years.”

    Mazda and Nissan appear to disagree.

  21. Curious George permalink
    May 20, 2017 3:46 pm

    Stanford has a tradition of predictions. Famous Professor Paul Ehrlich predicted that in the 1970s hundreds of millions of people would starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now [The Population Bomb, 1968]

    • gallopingcamel permalink
      May 22, 2017 4:34 am

      Stanford has many false prophets. 2025 is only eight years away so there is no chance that “All Vehicles Will Be Electric by 2025”.

      I used to like electric vehicles and have owned two. Owing to battery problems I no longer own any and even if people claim that the battery problems have been solved I will not but another electric vehicle. It is simply a case of fool me once shame on you, fool me three times shame on me.

  22. Curious George permalink
    May 20, 2017 3:53 pm

    A driverless car is not yet mature, but it has a potential to change our lifestyle. No more car ownership, garages, operating permits, driving licences, parking problems. Order your car half an hour in advance. Services like Uber and Lyft are going in that direction – with drivers, for now.

  23. JohnM permalink
    May 20, 2017 4:09 pm

    When I hired a car in Corsica I had to wash and vac the car before handing it in, otherwise I lost my deposit. Perhaps that is the future.

  24. It doesn't add up... permalink
    May 20, 2017 4:34 pm

    I did read the original paper (or at least as much of it as I could stomach, because it soon becomes plain that it is a fantasy, not based in any kind of reality).

    The first thing to disentangle is the difference between vehicle automation and the type of engine it uses. We already have a high degree of automation available in regular production diesel and petrol vehicles, with full integration in to automated driving not so far away. Adaptive cruise control, automated parking, motorway lane keeping, roadsign reading (speed limits), emergency braking for unexpected obstacle, traffic jam automated driving, even automated overtaking on a motorway are all commercially available right now, with some of these technologies likely to become commonplace on midrange vehicles, and some may even make it to being legal requirements on all new vehicles (e.g. automated emergency brake). These offerings sell themselves as convenience and safety features that don’t have to be engaged at present. As they penetrate vehicle fleets, more operational experience will be gained towards putting the bits together for automated driving, at least in cities and on major roads. Tackling a potholed single track country lane with high hedges may prove somewhat more challenging.

    So far as economics are concerned, the real high mileage vehicles are trucks and intercity buses. Here automation offers a real reduction in cost for drivers through assembling road trains where only the lead vehicle is actually driven by a person, with the others linked into a convoy. The nature of these trains probably makes them highly suitable to inherit rail tracks as their lanes of operation: maintenance standards would need to be high to minimise risk of breakdown leading to gridlock (although already truck breakdowns/tire replacement can seize up a major road for hours). Just as with commuter trains, buses would have to shunt off to dispersed locations to park – but the possibility of greater commuter convenience comes with smaller vehicles that can allow more of a journey to be completed without waiting or changing transport mode, and without intermediate stops.

    Electrification is a whole different ballgame, and only likely in the most dense, polluted cities for crosstown journeys on any scale. Indeed, that’s exactly what electrified trains already are.

  25. May 20, 2017 5:19 pm

    I hope I get to experience driverless cars on the road in great numbers. I can then walk out in front of the first one in the line and watch them all come to a grinding (smooth?) halt in order to protect me. Standing on the side of the road will no doubt be outlawed to prevent old farts like me cocking it up for all the other road users. Still it might be fun for a while….

  26. Stephen permalink
    May 20, 2017 10:47 pm

    Why stop with driverless cars? I mean, our clothes spend most of their time hanging in the wardrobe. It would be so much more efficient to have a service where drones deliver our clothes for the next day from a shared pool…cutting the world demand for cotton and reducing water and energy use. Tony Seba has such a limited imagination about the future!

    • May 22, 2017 9:59 am

      Perhaps you jest, but try thinking about this:

      Think Uber style app. for your lawnmower. You use it for maybe an hour a week, why not rent it out ?
      Your iron and ironing board?
      Your garden tools, any tool?

      There are so many things that could be “Community shared” type items. You pay £3 to borrow a mower, maybe 15 times a year, that’s £45 a year and you don’t need to store it!

      Driverless cars also kill UK a countries internal flights: Why, get to an airport, wait an hour for your flight, fly for an hour, then travel to you end destination. Why not call a driverless, sit in it and do your work, get out 4 hours later at you destination. Hell why not do it overnight and loose absolutely not time at all as you sleep in the car.

      The World is changing. Driverless will happen (why people couple this with electrification I am not sure), what the consequences are, or more importantly, what the “Unintended consequences” are, no one knows.


  27. tom0mason permalink
    May 21, 2017 2:02 am

    “…in theory one car could be used by six different people.”

    1 car for 6 people, OUTRAGEOUS!

    Next you’ll want every Tom, Delia, and Harriot to just be able to choose the vehicle they want just by buying one.

    As the overlords say “Put ’em in the corral, keep ’em in the corral”

  28. May 21, 2017 6:32 am

    There have been many reports of charger-rage – people being asked to wait overlong at the few available charging points. It illustrates the real problem with electric vehicles, that you cannot charge them at the sort of rate that you take for granted in a petrol or diesel fuelled car.
    The physics is revealing. Petrol and diesel have a heat of combustion of over 40MJ/kg. Squeeze the bowser nozzle hard, and you will put over half a litre – about 500g – of fuel into your tank every second. You are “recharging” your car at 40 x 0.5 MJ/s = 20MW.
    Not even Elon Musk has suggested a 1MW charging station.
    If you are serious about electric cars, you have to consider streets lined with charging points and a whole new power grid to supply them.

  29. Tim Hammond permalink
    May 21, 2017 9:20 am

    Interesting points but it doesn’t all add up. I pay say £350 a year insurance, £120 road tax and £150 parking permit. Add in say £100 for an MOT and £150 for maintenance each year and that’s over £1,000 before I do any driving. That’s what, 25 trips at £40/trip.

    Add in another £1,000 in depreciation and I’m up to 50 trips. If the £40 is all in, then you can add in petrol costs as well. And the opportunity cost of car ownership.

    And why assume you have to wait for a car? And why assume you can’t book ahead? And why assume your time is valueless? And you ignore the benefits – a few thousand fewer accidents, many hours of fewer unnecessary jams, more efficient use of resources (80% of existing resources used to move us around us a massive improvement).

    A bitT too one-sided.

    • May 21, 2017 3:43 pm

      50 trips? I use mine everyday, Tim

      I don’t understand the “less jams” bit. Surely if there as many car journeys, there will still be as many jams. Indeed people may be tempted to use a driverless car instead of public transport, in which case jams would get worse

  30. Dung permalink
    May 21, 2017 10:33 am

    Another and even more worrying aspect of this is freedom and democracy.

    Smart Meters
    The internet of things
    Driverless cars
    The cashless society

    These are all heading in the same direction, the government is in control of everything you do and everything you own.

    Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness are out
    Government of the people by the state, for the state is in.

  31. May 22, 2017 8:01 am

    I’m with ‘It doesn’t add up’ on this.
    We already have driver assisted vehicles that have technological adaptation to make your driving safer and more enjoyable, I can see this technology following in that format with some parts being ‘pushed’ onto the driver as anti lock brakes have and other parts of it being selective such as cruise control.
    ‘Safe distance from the vehicle in front’ I can see being forced into general production as the technology becomes economically viable to fit to general production vehicles. Complete autonomy I can see as an option for long motorway journeys much like cruise control now, in the same fashion I expect to receive a prompt that a convoy is covering the majority of my journey to a destination and I have an invite to join it.
    Big brother technology doesn’t come into it, the same as smart metering. The conspiracy theorists that believe the government are setting up the technology to change our lives are correct in one aspect only, it’s there to benefit us. What works will get used what doesn’t will not, there is a mountain of technology that initially seemed good but has fallen by the wayside.
    Predicting that all this will be in place in the next couple of years is frankly ridiculous. The first commercial use of electric driver less vehicles I would predict to be single use trips from large commuter hubs such as airports which will replace taxi’s. Banks of vehicles on charge ready for a single destination trip and back to base again.
    The source of energy for this electricity will be critical to business and pure renewable will not be an option. It’s time that large hubs like Heathrow, Gatwick had their own Nuclear generation plant and become independent from the main grid.

  32. Dung permalink
    May 22, 2017 10:32 am

    Lord Beaverbrook

    You will not be able to drive such a vehicle without being monitored and if desired you can be imobilised. Come the time that we need to throw off this contolling yolk, all this will be at the disposal of our government.

  33. May 22, 2017 10:49 am


    You forgot the part about the hackers causing multiple collisions and shutting down our motorways for a ransom of $300 worth of bit coins… oh dear….

    • tom0mason permalink
      May 22, 2017 12:19 pm

      That’s another way the state would ‘indirectly’ tax you, after all who has a large contingent of ‘legal’ hackers — the state!

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