August 1, 2014

The Government has invited UK cities to bid for the chance to bring Robotic Road Traffic Accidents (RRTAs) to their streets alongside the old fashioned human kind (HRTAs, as they will in future be known).

In just six months’ time up to three UK cities, Vince Cables announced earlier this week, will receive a share of a “massive” £10m cash handout in return for volunteering to have driverless vehicles careening around their roadways for between 18 and 36 months, or until the first child dies.

Cables cited the “excellence of our scientists and engineers” as more than ample justification for this exciting live experiment on the British public, which he hailed as a chance to position this country at the forefront of a “transformational technology” that will open up “new opportunities for our economy and society”.

Science Minsiter Greg Cluck noted that Britain’s “strengths in cars, satellites, big data and urban design” combine to make us “brilliantly placed” to see what happens when motor vehicles steer themselves.

The news may not be all good for traditional motor insurers however. In the short term things will get a bit confusing and contentious. Thereafter, assuming not too many RRTAs occur and the technology becomes established, the need for conventional motor insurance will ultimately evaporate.

The Financial Times reports that some insurers believe driverless cars pose an “existential threat” (perhaps something along the lines of ‘stop acting in bad faith or your life will be forever devoid of all meaning’) to their £16bn industry and quoting one industry source’s view that “driverless cars will ultimately mean the elimination of conventional motor insurance.”

If driver error ceases to be a factor in RTA causation, the third party element disappears and the chances are that motor insurance would switch from being a consumer retail sale to something taken out by motor manufacturers. Cue the demise of meerkats, nodding dogs, Wall-E lookalikes etc.

On the upside, all those newly time-rich former employees of the motor insurance and advertising sectors, will be able to pass any journeys they make more productively and creatively whilst floating round the country in the 0% finance robocars they splashed out on just before being laid-off.

Writing in Forbes Magazine, Tim Wartstool (no relation) extrapolates from here to suggest that once top execs – even those without chauffeurs – are able to work whilst on the road, the justification for expensive new rail projects like HS2 will similarly evaporate. So we can pull the plug on that one right now.

With driverless cars impervious to error, we can also lift the speed limit on our motorways to any speed said vehicles can achieve with a reasonable degree of mechanical dependability.

Better yet, Formula 1 teams will no longer have to worry about human pilots refusing to give way for teammates.

Yes, in future we will all be free to drive wherever we want, without even doing any driving.

Unless, of course, the robots get too smart and/or uppity and we end up in some kind of us-v-them dystopian scenario, possibly involving Will Smith.

In which case our cars will simply be dropping us off at the nearest slave camp or termination facility.

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