THE decision to put the UK in the forefront of the development of driverless cars is a brave, smart choice. Smart because this technology is accelerating fast and it makes sense to have a hand on the steering wheel. With firms such as Ricardo UK doing great work on autonomous road train projects, and experiments with RobotCar UK at the University of Oxford, this is a chance for the UK’s world-class engineers to shape this extraordinary technology.
But it is a brave choice as well, because the success of driverless cars will mean startling changes to existing industries: jobs for taxi and lorry drivers will be at risk, and the financial services world will see motor insurance, currently worth £16bn in annual premiums, upended.
But the answer is never to shrink from such challenges, only to rise to the opportunities of new technology. A Lloyd’s of London report published this year found that insurers’ skill at managing risk would actually be essential in allowing autonomous vehicles to be developed.
It added that while insurance would change, new opportunities would emerge – better matching of exposure and premium due to more telematics data, and a large potential market for more cyber insurance.
More generally, the Robotenomics blog just crunched the jobs numbers on firms that were embracing industrial robots – and it found that these firms were also increasing employee headcount significantly.
The best way out, as Robert Frost wrote, is always through. Especially if your new car can steer for itself.