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Too risky for humans

There was a note of triumphalism in the UK government’s announcement that, by the end of the year, driverless cars are coming to a motorway somewhere near you. The Department of Transport’s subtext was that puny humans should get out of the way because, as transport secretary Grant Shapps was quick to point out, humans are responsible for over 85 per cent of accidents on the UK’s roads, so the fewer such incompetents behind the wheel, the better.

True, mixed in with the Orwellian tone was grim slapstick – self-driving vehicles will be limited to speeds of up to 37 mph on motorways. This should make them really popular, especially if they adopt the default Sunday driver’s position of hogging the middle lane.

And, in the fluff of the announcement, transport minister Rachel Maclean remembered to tick the obligatory boxes. “This is a major step for the safe use of self-driving vehicles in the UK, making future journeys greener, easier and more reliable,” she said. In other words, the key selling points of robotic driving are safety and convenience and who can object to that? That’s partly the point. Who, indeed, can object to fostering safety and convenience? In a world of too much uncertainty and too little time these are the modern deities whom we all worship.

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