Friday 21 October 2016

Self-driving cars are on the way but lads bar stools shouldn't expect salvation

Self-driving cars are on the way, but the lads on the bar stool shouldn't expect salvation

Published 10/01/2016 | 02:30

Hope: The Google self-driving car began testing last yea
Hope: The Google self-driving car began testing last yea

Oh, how I love this internet of things. My very intelligent and totally connected colleague, Adrian Weckler, was able to link his attendance at the CES, the world's biggest technology show, in Las Vegas to a rural pub in Kerry in one brilliant swoop. On the way, he was able to garner the support of local TD Michael Healy-Rae and the AA's director of consumer affairs, Conor Faughnan.

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This wonderful bit of fun had the idea of a bunch of hardy lads in some pub getting mightily drunk and then being chauffeured home in their self-driving car, which was the talk of the Consumer Electronics Show.

"We want to make a car that is incapable of causing a crash," said Gill Pratt, head of Toyota Research. The Japanese car maker wants to save 30,000 lives annually with self-driving cars, he said.

Ford chief executive Mark Fields told Adrian in Las Vegas that autonomous vehicles would be "affordable" and "not just for wealthy people".

"In 10 or 15 years, rural publicans may well see their customers drinking, and afterwards, tell their car to safely bring them home," said Conor Faughnan. "The technology is literally already there to do this. It's just a matter of time until the legal and social norms catch up."

Kerry TD Michael Healy- Rae has been critical of existing drink-driving laws, claiming they have stopped rural pubs and businesses from being able to make a living.

"If these new cars aren't priced out of the reach of ordinary people, then yes, I can see them making a positive change to the situation," he told Adrian Weckler. "But it would want to come quickly."

Can you just imagine it? Even if the technology allowed it, which hopefully it won't.

"Ah sure, we'll just give Willie a lift home too and while we're at it, we'll stop at Bridie's for a bit of cake and that lovely whiskey she keeps.

"Just talk into the mic, Seanie and we'll be okay."

The hope that Conor Faughnan and Michael Healy-Rae gave the lads, falling off their bar stools in anticipation, was outrageous. If it ever happens in outer Kerry, it will be when the present occupants of the bar have long gone to their caskets. But then, hope springs eternal and some auld fella tonight will believe that the future will be here before the next pint is poured.

However, it is important not to knock the idea that it might be possible in some areas to do this. For instance, the Renault-Nissan Alliance announced on Thursday it will launch more than 10 vehicles with autonomous drive technology in the next four years.

This year will see vehicles with "single-lane control", allowing cars to drive autonomously on highways, including in heavy, stop-and-go traffic. In 2018, Renault-Nissan will launch vehicles with "multiple-lane control", which can autonomously negotiate hazards and change lanes during highway driving. And 2020 will see the launch of "intersection autonomy", which can navigate city intersections and heavy urban traffic without driver intervention.

Yet, the killer line is that "all of the Alliance's autonomous drive technology will be available at the option of the driver".

Have you ever tried to tell a drunk anything? How many times was I told in the old days, "Sure, It'll be all right, the car knows its way home."

Sunday Independent

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