Thursday, January 7, 2016

India should stop building roads and spend on autonomous transport

The surprising message for me after hearing this talk Keynote - AltCars Expo was the great reduction in the road space needed.

Assuming that this technology enables us to have a far better movement of traffic with the existing road infrastructure, we in India should be actively pursuing this future rather than building ever more roads. Can we make it work in India?

The cost of NOT doing it is visible in the example of Delhi:

I recall having a sore throat on every trip I took to Delhi by the time I reached my office from the airport. This was on trips to  Delhi prior to the introduction of CNG. The experience after that (2002 onward?) was far better  for some years. Meanwhile, Delhi built more roads, more flyovers, and even a metro, but the net result is that it has achieved the status of the most polluted city in the world!

How can autonomous vehicles share the road space with the current Indian traffic? It just seems impossible when even in the US, humans tend to hit the autonomous vehicles from the rear.

We should start with autonomous public transport, both buses and taxis, and create a legal framework which disciplines the human drivers harshly.

How about legally treating any human driver who hits an autonomous vehicle as attempting suicide. All legal responsibilities of insurance companies would be exactly the same as in the case of a suicide.

We can experiment with such a law today with riders on motor bikes  who are not wearing a helmet. I am pretty sure it will introduce social pressures and modify the behaviour of the riders. It may even help create a market for air-cooled helmets.

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