If India doesn’t get self-driving cars in the next few years, it isn’t for want of trying. Earlier this week the Union (Federal) Minister for Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, said: “We won’t allow driverless cars in India. I am very clear on this.”
That’s not the only challenge for driverless cars in India. The chaos on public roads needs to be experienced in order to have an understanding of why that is. Even in the urban setting, Indian traffic conditions are not conducive to AI technology that goes by the rules. Road signs are often non-existent or obscured, lane systems are followed more in the breach, domesticated animals typically have right of way and the sheer density of population puts a roadblock in front of any self-driving technology initiative.
That’s not to say that autonomous vehicle technology will not work on Indian roads and highways. In fact, Tata Elxsi, the design and engineering wing of Tata Group, is already testing self-driving cars on a private track designed to mimic real-life road conditions – cattle and all.
How their work will be impacted by the government’s now-public view of autonomous vehicle technology is not known, but Mr. Gadkari seems firm on this matter.
“We won’t allow any technology that takes away jobs. In a country where you have unemployment, you can’t have a technology that ends up taking people’s jobs,” he said, adding that there was actually a shortage of 22,000 driver jobs.
While this hurdle has little meaning now because of the current state of autonomous driving technology, it does pose some long-term questions about self-driving vehicle technology and job losses for the driving profession.
In fact, Uber drivers in the United States are equally worried about the company deploying self-driving cars on a large scale because it curbs the opportunity for human drivers to earn a living.
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