Advanced Driver Assistance Systems and Autonomous cars are no more a work of fiction, they are real and soon enough fully autonomous vehicles would be visible on the streets. There are a lot of debates and discussions about them in terms of technology, impact on jobs etc. But apart from these they have a far reaching impact on a society. Today, I would like to go a step forward and highlight what could happen if driver less cars are launched in India. According to me it will not just be a technological advancement, but it would affect the behavior of Indians to a great extent and in a positive way.
Most companies are very close to getting their AVs on the roads. But unfortunately, driver less cars cannot be launched in India for at least a few years. They could be manufactured but they wont be able to run on the streets at all. The reason for this statement is quite straightforward, AVs depend heavily on external infrastructure. Some of the dependencies are: good roads with all the markings (different lane markings, zebra crossing, turns etc), perfectly functional street lights, street signs etc. If the car has to travel from point A to point B all these things should be available for every inch of the path. It would not work if a 100 meter patch somewhere in between had no markings but the rest had! So the first thing that AVs would bring to the table without even being actually present is a world class road infrastructure leading to a lot of new employment opportunity as well.
Lets move a little ahead on the timeline and say, the infrastructure is there and the AVs are on the streets. What next? Since they are machines, they do exactly what is asked of them. Since they would have the correct understanding of the traffic rules, enough patience and as machines don’t drink or molest, the streets would be safer then ever. There would be a substantial reduction in the number of road accidents because of human errors. In 2016 alone, more than 400 people a day were killed in road accidents. Unless this is a way to curb the exponentially rising Indian Population this number could be reduced with humans not controlling the steering wheel at all. So, the second thing that AVs would bring to the table is a better traffic sense and safer roads. Moreover, there would be less time consumed in travel as there would be less traffic jams. I say this because a lot of traffic jams happen due to deadlock situations created because of some impatient drivers, who are always in a hurry and cut lanes and sometimes end up facing the car coming from the other side.
During the same point on the timeline, there would also be driver less public transport system. Buses and taxis would be running without human drivers. Since, the buses would be driver less, they would stop only at the predefined stops, would not wait for more than required, would not be greedy for extra money and so will not allow more than required number of people to board the bus. These factors would make the buses reach the destinations on time without being overcrowded. People wanting to use the public transport would be more comfortable using the public transport then as compared to now. So, the third thing AVs would bring to the table will be an improved and usable public transport system.
On the similar note, the usage of taxis, cabs, car rentals and car pooling would be increased. Taxis and car rentals would mean the same and it would be easier to hire one. No fooling around with the new passengers, no reluctance for the shorter routes, complete privacy, driver not hearing your conversations etc. will add the necessary credibility and make it more user friendly. Efficiency in finding the best route to reach a point would be excellent. Daily commuting from or to the office would be less stressful. An eight or ten hours journey would look like a piece of cake, traveling during the night sleeping and saving the valuable day time. How would the life be if some of the stress is removed? I guess the fourth thing AVs would bring to the table for India is a reduced stress for middle class people.
With increased usage of public transports and cabs, there would be less personal vehicles on the street at a given point in time. An efficient system would keep public transport vehicles and cabs on the streets for most of the time, which means there would be less requirement for parking space. It could be inferred that one of the major growing issues: “cannot find a parking place” could be solved by AVs. Moreover, with reduced usage of personal vehicles, the exploitation of the renewable resources along with carbon emission could be controlled. Hence, the fifth thing AVs would bring to the table for India will be efficient and careful usage of the resources.
One of the objectives for a new technology is to make lives of the users easier and happier. Self driving cars will not only lead to the above mentioned benefits but will also add flexibility and freedom to the lives of millions of Indians If we see at the lives of people these days, some of them don’t like driving but have to drive daily for one or the other reason, they may have to drive to and from the office, drop their kids to the school or some other mundane task. On the contrary there are some people who have to depend on some other person to go from one place to another place as they don’t know driving or they don’t want to drive. With AVs around, no body will have to depend on any body, and no body will have to drive for anybody. Driving would truly be a luxurious and entertaining activity rather than a liability.