Last Friday I was lucky enough to go for a ride in an autonomous pod. We went for a jaunt around an industrial estate and I was there for this particular pod’s first ever experience with rain (there was a momentary time-out).
I was expecting to feel a little unnerved - but it was not the case.
Granted we weren't exactly doing 70mph+ on a Friday afternoon M25 - but after the initial excitement, it settled in that I was simply a passenger - superfluous to the actual getting from A to B and free to relax / feel inferior to the Oxford PhD holder I was sat next at the time.
Seeing how easy it was to literally take the back seat - I really can see this technology fully disrupting transportation as we know it. And we are so close to nailing the tech. Falling computing and hardware costs (an important piece of kit costing £30k two years ago is now only £5k), improved mathematics around uncertainty and some increased competition are all driving the rate at which we will approach full autonomous capability.
It’s great to see pods going live in certain towns in the UK as part of ongoing experiments, but it is fascinating to see reports from China. Not only are they designing whole new cities where manual cars will simply be left off the blueprint - but they are also planning for existing cities to fully embrace the tech within a decade.
My side bet with a colleague about when UK motorways will disallow manual drivers on them is starting to look like a safe one (I went with pre 2040 by the way)!
Within a decade, Wu Hu, about 200 miles west of Shanghai, aims to become the first city in the world to ban human drivers and go fully autonomous