Driverless Car
(Image courtesy Institutional Investor)

After more than 20 years in the M2M/IoT space, you tend to get a lot of good stories to pass along.  One that comes to mind is when I was part of a deal that sold an in-car Field Service solution to a trucking company.  The Operations Director was definitely not in our court and had a ton of "what if" scenarios to prevent us from succeeding.  One of his main concerns was about Security, and rightly so.  He grilled us on exactly how secure the overall solution was, the chances for information theft, etc.

After a long presentation, he said, "I just don't see how secure this really is", to which one of the IT guys (who was definitely in our favour) responded, "Probably a lot more sure than us leaving papers with credit cards in a clipboard on the front seat of the car with the window open while our worker is in McDonald's".  Well, that made everyone laugh and reminded everyone that the solution we were proposing was light-years ahead of what they were using now and that it did not add any undue security risk compared to what they had now.

The same comes to mind when it comes to autonomous cars...we need to treat them on a level playing field.

No solution, even automation of cars, will prevent accidents

While I have never actually been in a car without a driver, I have been on many shuttle trains that are driver-less.  The trains seemed to run well, always stopped very precisely and I don't recall ever having a serious delay that would not also have affected a train with a driver operating it.

So, the concerns are always, "what if?"....what if a pedestrian walks out? .....what if there is a power failure? ....what if there is no Internet connectivity?

I don't want to not say that these things are important, they most certainly are.  But, two can play the “what if?” game, this time, talking about drivers and their cars.  What if the driver has a heart attack? ...what if the driver is talking on the phone?...what if the driver is a bit hung-over and has slow reaction time?

The fact is that we need to stop assuming that every driver has the reaction time of a ninja, the driving skills of a Formula 1 driver and that they’re paying attention as closely as I do when my wife talks (ok, that is not a high bar to achieve, but you get the point).

The fact is that for every one driver like this, there are millions of:

  • 18 year girls who try to sneak a text in
  • 80 year old men who mix up the gas and the brake pedals regularly
  • Soccer Moms who need to figure out how the frog got out of the tank while driving (wish this was not a true story)
  • Middle age salespeople who started their presentation (on their laptop, on the front seat) to be on time....and, I am not admitting that I ever did this, by the way.

The Bottom Line

When we are comparing the driving skills/performance of an autonomous car, we need to compare it more to the average driver, driving under normal circumstances and not what the ideal driver may do on their best day.  Inevitably, there are going to be issues in the future with driver-less cars, but it does not mean that we are worse off by using them.