The former Top Gear “Stig”, Ben Collins, is warning that self-driving cars could mean that driving and the personal freedom it brings could be consigned to history.
Writing in the Telegraph, he said “the year is 2025. It seems like only yesterday that I read the news about the recall of 1.4 million cars after a group of cyber enthusiasts proved they could hack into the “safety-critical” systems: code for the important stuff that slows you down or steers you away from death.
“I thought that would spell the end for driverless vehicles. Imagine being locked inside your car and taken for a terminal joyride into the side of a building. But the transition of control to non-human hands was done so gradually that we hardly noticed it.”
He also questions self-parking cars, saying they seemed innocent enough “until new drivers stopped learning how to park for themselves – why bother? And the three-point turn was the next driving skill to be lost.”
Therein he says lies the self-fulfilling prophecy of safety. “The more “driver aids” you add to a car, the less engaged and less safe the driver becomes”, he believes, “necessitating further aids and so on, until finally you have complete automation and the driving test is a relic of the past.
“Take ABS. Heralded as the greatest breakthrough in car safety since the stop sign, anti-lock braking systems were designed to enable drivers to steer during emergency braking situations. However, the negatives outweighed the positives. Freed from the minor fright that accompanies skidding tyres, drivers followed each other more closely and braked later for corners under the mistaken belief that the brakes were more effective with a computer in charge. They weren’t, but ABS stayed.
In the article he goes on to question new steering technology and even the advantages of not having to drive on the commute where he suggests “commuting distances have doubled, with vehicle occupants happy to zone out in their pleasure booths, watching movies or working themselves to death, seemingly losing track of time.”