Is it time to take humans out of the loop?

I admit it, I'm a pretty terrible back seat driver. It is not so much that I'm particularly vocal with advice to others, it's more that I'm what's called 'a flincher'. Get too close, brake too late or even change lanes, and there I am, quietly tensing up, getting nervous and generally looking uncomfortable.

No surprises, but this has the effect of putting the driver off somewhat. Their attention – and annoyance – is turned to me resulting in slower reactions to things happening on the road, meaning they brake later, get too close... you get the picture. It puts people on edge, forces errors, and creates the self fulfilling prophecy that warrants a flinch or two from my side.

I don't do it on purpose, but the result is that most of the time I'm happier being a driver as opposed to a passenger. Now, I should note, I've never been in an accident, had a crash, seen a bad accident or had any terrible experience to make me such a bad back seat driver. And I certainly don't suffer the same feeling being a passenger on a train, bus or aeroplane.

But, when it comes to the question of whether it is time to take drivers off the road, I certainly feel an illogical anxiety. The engineer in me knows that taking humans out the loop will no doubt improve safety - as it has done in numerous other industries - provided the technology can do what we're told it can do. However, on the other hand, the thought of handing over control of a vehicle to a machine is not one that on a personal level sits comfortably with me.

Still, you can't halt progress. Uber – the taxi booking app – plans to operate 500,000 driverless taxis by 2020. This is a significant number and it highlights a trend that is not an 'if', but a 'when'. So it is a question I will have to get to grips with before long, otherwise I could well end up walking.

Let me know your thoughts? Would you fancy being driven around by a machine intelligence, or would you be happier behind the wheel?

Justin Cunningham

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