Expressing a highly contentious view, Jonathan Webber, Professor of Philosophy at Cardiff University, has suggested that human drivers should be banned once driverless cars are up to speed.
Writing in The Conversation, he said: “Robot drivers won’t break the speed limit, jump the lights, or park where they shouldn’t. They won’t drive under the influence of drink or drugs. They’ll never get tired or behave aggressively. They won’t be distracted by changing the music or sending a text, and they’ll never be trying to impress their mates.
“Many people enjoy driving. But many people enjoy smoking too, and this is banned in public places. There could be designated safe spaces for drivers to indulge their hobby without risk to other people.”
It is a convincing argument. He even acknowledges the importance of access, saying: “There is a strong case that essential transport infrastructure should be publicly owned. And if private cars are not an option, perhaps the cost of using autonomous taxis should be proportionate to ability to pay.
“But regardless of how we resolve these practical issues, it seems that the enormous benefits of safe, driverless taxis should lead us to remove any other kind of car from our roads.”
This strong stance puts him on a collision course with Alex Roy, the New York-based founder of the Human Driving Association (HDA).
An arch critic of fatuous and excessive claims made by self-driving proponents, eyebrows were raised when Roy wrote an article for The Drive explaining why he had accepted a position with driverless tech company Argo AI.
“I want what any sane person should want. I want tomorrow, today. I want it to be reliable. I want technology that enhances my life rather than restricts it,” he said.
“I want to own a car with a self-driving button, but I still want a steering wheel, and I want to set the first autonomous Cannonball Run record, and I want my daughter to have a driver’s license.”
To achieve this, the HDA is calling for a constitutional amendment on the right to drive your own vehicle.
As so often with the embryonic driverless car industry, there are more questions than answers: Are the two really so far apart? Do we need something like the HDA on this side of the pond?