Self-driving cars (or “automated vehicles,” AVs) are all the rage in the debate. In most cases, we have a lot of hype and little evidence but it is also true that such cars are not impossible. So, what can we say about this idea?
I often say that technological progress is subjected to the golden rule that it generates more problems than it solves. So, not unsurprisingly, the way AVs are normally proposed today, they would solve no important existing problem but would bring new ones.
In most AVs schemes, you are still supposed to own a car, use it to commute to your job, take your family to a vacation – the only difference with AVs is that you are relieved of the drudgery of having to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. But a recent study reports that, in equivalent conditions of owning a driverless car, people tend to log in more miles and keep their cars circling around rather than bothering about finding a parking space. Not exactly the way to reduce traffic congestion and pollution.
But there is a different application of AVs which may qualify as a true technological breakthrough. It is “platooning.” (Image from The Business Times). At first sight, it doesn’t look like a big innovation. Trucks running close to each other? Didn’t that already exist under the name of “trailers”?
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