India bans all driverless cars as Lyft announces rollout in the US

Andrew Munro 2 August 2017

shutterstock driverless car road 738x410

Governments are scrambling to keep up as driverless cars hit the road.

Rideshare company Lyft has announced that riders in Boston, USA, will be able to request self-driving cars through the Lyft app in just a few months time. Its technology partner, nuTonomy has already brought robo-taxis to Singapore, while Uber is conducting similar tests in Pittsburgh.

Australia, meanwhile, might be seeing driverless taxis coming to NSW by 2020. Driverless cars are very quickly becoming normal, and right now countries all around the world are looking for the best way to legislate them and prepare for the economic impacts.

However, India's reaction might be unique. At a recent press conference, Nitin Gadkari, India's transport minister, announced that self driving technology would be outlawed for most purposes.

"We won’t allow driverless cars in India. I am very clear on this," said Gadkari. According to Gadkari, India currently needs 22,000 more commercial drivers and he doesn't want any new technology to exacerbate the problem.

"In a country where you have unemployment, you can’t have a technology that ends up taking people’s jobs."

He might have a point. Elsewhere, that kind of driver shortage would be the perfect problem for autonomous cars to solve, but India's already started down the people-powered road, investing in about 100 driver training centres around the country. India's roads might also pose a unique challenge to self-driving tech, with poor maintenance, chaotic conditions and drastic seasonal variations all favouring humans behind the wheel.

Following India's lead

In the coming years, some countries, including the USA, might regret not following India's lead.

In a study presented to America's Transportation Research Board, researchers from the University of Austin (UA) looked at the economic impact of autonomous vehicles across the US economy and mostly ended up with a tangled web of fiscal and ethical dilemmas.

Just like in Australia, the insurance industry will need to think fast. According to the UA predictions, the $180 billion US industry is going to be reduced to less than half its size as its sheds over $100 billion in personal car, injury and liability business.

On the other hand, the freight transport industry will reap the benefits of driverless tech with enormous profit increases at the cost of countless jobs as truckers and other logistics workers disappear.

Driverless technology could also have an effect in other areas, for example, the UA report predicts an economic dip in the medical industry. Even though driving in Australia is more than twice as safe as in the USA, trucking is still one of the Australia's deadliest jobs, and road accidents are one of the most common causes of death.

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