For the past three years I have been telling everyone that will listen that driverless cars will arrive within our lifetimes, and that my two-year old daughter won’t need a driving licence. Today, that vision came a step closer, as the British government signalled that driverless cars would be allowed on British roads from 1st January 2015. I am absolutely convinced that they will be the biggest technological revolution that the world has seen since the microprocessor, if not the internal combustion engine.
There are of course many legal issues to resolve. Will the driverless cars require a passenger who could step in if necessary? Will that passenger have to be a qualified driver? Who (if anyone) is at fault if a driverless car collides with another vehicle, a child in the road, or a tree? And, for the philosophers out there, if a driverless car has insufficient braking distance to stop in time to prevent it hitting three schoolchildren who have run into the road, would an algorithm tell it to mount the pavement and kill the one adult walking there?
However, I’m an optimist. I think these issues will be resolved. I think this technology will benefit everyone. But my real interest is, who will it benefit most and least. In other words, what is the investment angle? Who will be the unexpected beneficiaries of massively reliable, cheap and on-demand transport? Rural pubs? Leisure facilities for older people? And who to short? NCP and Addison Lee? Arriva?