Positive thinking overload.... what about the flipside
We seem to have heard quite enough from the optimists about just how marvellous it will be to fall out of the pub at 2am and get the car home just like the good-ol-days, but what might go wrong with this cunning plan?
There's many minor glitches. These include getting people to trust that an old £100 Fiat automated banger in 20 years time. Trust that it will still function correctly and not kill everyone inside it, the first time it has a memory error. However, the big BIG BIG problem, is inadvertently creating a new weapon of mass destruction.
Yes, yes, down-vote at the ready, but think about it first. If this automated revolution is successful, and god knows there's enough people cheering it on, the streets will be full with millions of fully automated vehicles. These machines are capable of being reprogrammed, and because the optimists are in charge, it will doubtless be over-the-air updates at that. What you have here is a massive mobile botnet in waiting.
Now I can see you reaching towards your keyboard muttering about secure protocols and testing etc, but frankly that just isn't good enough. It's not even close. This is a massively distributed killing machine. It's the perfect weapon of mass destruction. It comes with pre-loaded hostages in case you were thinking about stopping parts of it. It has software carefully engineered to identify humans, which could be trivially re-purposed to target humans. It can navigate to target's kill them and automatically recharge and redeploy indefinitely. Best of all, it's already deployed all around it's targets. Basically you can hold the whole world to ransom. The best bit is you can do this indefinitely. Issue your demands, then allow things to continue as normal, as long as 10,000 people in each country remain as hostages in their cars. They won't be permitted to exit the vehicle until another enters a vehicle elsewhere. If there's an attempt to break the botnet, then (n) people will be killed a minute until the attempt stops. You can basically rule the world this way.
So back to my point about security. All security is breakable. All you are doing by adding more cryptography and checks is raising the effort level to a point where it isn't worth it for the attacker. Here the security would have to be perfect, as the payoff is basically infinite. Nobody must be able to compromise the system, not nation states, not the companies who make the vehicles, not the developers of the software. You would have to treat this system are more dangerous and secure than any nuclear weapons system.
This is not going to happen.
What if we go back to why we are creating this massive potential disaster. This is a solved problem, it's called a Taxi and it works very well. Yes, you have to pay someone each time you use the vehicle, but Uber seems to have made that pretty painless. I imagine someone has already taken the next step and created "season passes" that allow you to travel as much as you want within a geographic area. So what's the problem? Smelly humans driving the vehicles? Okay, legislation on hygiene and qualifications to be a cab driver. Bad vehicles used as taxis - stricter rules for Taxi vehicles. Worried about personal safety in a taxi, fit them with CCTV and 24/7 tracking. Bad driving? Then crack down on dangerous driving, not just speeding. What is the actual problem we are solving here?
Is it because we saw it in a Sci-fi film and it looked cool......... probably.
So no, I don't think it's a great idea. Would I love to be able to press a button on my phone and have my car come find me? Sure, that would be awesome! It's just that things are never quite that simple.