Mahindra plans Driverless Cars………                                                              

Economic Times 5 Mar 2015

The report goes on to say that Mahindra Group is all set to join an elite league of companies such as Google, Tesla, BMW and Audi that are experimenting with driverless cars.

Driverless cars? Here, where traffic jams on flyovers are a common sight. Thankfully, they too felt similarly as, in the same report, an executive goes on to say that Indian roads are too crowded to test driverless cars and hence the road tests would be carried out in UK and Singapore.

I feel that there are many other aspects to be addressed before driverless cars are introduced in India.

Take, for instance, zebra crossing. A driverless car will be programmed to stop accurately before a zebra crossing.  How will it handle the relentless honking from the driver just behind who feels like occupying the wasted space? Also, at most of the traffic signals, vehicles start moving even before the signal turns green. Again, the chap behind would let loose a volley of abuses at the loss of precious seconds. Maybe, such situations can be handled by fitting a speaker behind the car that would automatically broadcast choicest abuses whenever it senses similar words coming from behind. It is easy to get such a list from the censor board who recently compiled a list of banned words. The system can be programmed to add to its rich vocabulary as and when it hears new words hurled at it.

Now, the average Indian owner driver is a bottle filled with frustration at his boss for not getting promotion, his wife for making inedible dishes, the government for taking away his money and innumerable others for various reasons. While driving, with great difficulty, he holds everything back with a tight grip on the steering wheel. All he needs to explode is an overtaking car. He would somehow access the driver, bash him up, and, if a gun is handy, just finish him off.  Imagine a scenario where the driverless car thoroughly checks the road and traffic conditions, and with proper signal, overtakes the car ahead. Our frustrated man, gun in hand, stops the car, only to find nobody at the wheel.  Will he then shoot in the air, or will he take a hammer and smash the software system that dared to overtake him? Maybe, the manufacturers will have to make them rugged like an aircraft black box.

If a car with a driver hits a driverless car, whom will you blame? Obviously, it could be the mistake of the human driver.  But then, bugs are detected even in the best of software and a driverless car is entirely software driven.  What if an accident occurs between two driverless cars?  Maybe, cyber security software personnel will descend at the site. They will either run tests to identify the accused software or seize the black box equivalent for thorough study.

The software will have to be tweaked to suit Indian conditions.  The rules say that when you want to take a right against oncoming traffic on the other lane, you should stop, check thoroughly before taking the turn. As my driving instructor said, if you do that, you will be waiting forever. You need to forcibly inch forward to be allowed to go.

Not just the above, the car will have to tackle holy cows, unholy drunkards, and dynamically adjust to the increasing number and size of potholes as the monsoon advances. And also take care of unruly BEST drivers, VIP movement, religious processions, protest marches, traffic diversions, work in progress………………………………………

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