Opinion: No driver-less cars in India, says Transport Minister

The Internet recently received a new topic for discussion when the country’s union transport minister – Mr. Nitin Gadkari, commented that self-driving cars won’t be allowed in India. Well, if you are someone who knows even a tiny bit about self-driving or driver-less cars, you won’t really be surprised by this statement. Reason – driving conditions currently prevalent in India are far from ideal for an autonomous car to successfully operate. However, the reason given by the transport minister makes this rather obvious statement to look a lot more interesting. Mr. Gadkari says that the reason behind this decision to ban self-driving cars in India is to protect the jobs of millions of drivers of the country!

This statement reminds us of the 1980s when some political parties were protesting against the introduction of computers in various fields as it would result in a shortage of jobs and an increase in unemployment. Years later, a majority of India’s educated youth sits down in front of computers for their daily 9-to-5 (or whatever..) jobs. Banning self-driving cars in the name of employment is similar to removing robots from manufacturing lines as they will take away jobs of labours. Imagine what would be the industry’s picture if there were no robots or computers!

On the other hand, employability of skilled as well as unskilled youth in the country is a rising issue. If reports are to be believed, more than 5 lakh people have lost their jobs over the past couple of years due to the introduction of robotics, automation and artificial intelligence in their respective fields. This issue, which was previously limited to just manufacturing operations, has now spread to the IT industry as well, thanks to the advent of automated software development and testing platforms. As a result, every 1 in 7 employees across all industries have been rendered useless with the introduction of automation.

But is it really justified to avoid embracing new technologies for the risk of unemployment? Here’s our take on the situation!

The Indian road transport system is no less than a rut in its current situation. Improper road markings and traffic signs, lack of dedicated parking spots, encroachment over public road lanes, absence of driving etiquette, etc. Name any traffic or road discipline problem in the world and India has it. As a result, it will be extremely hard for car makers to program the algorithm in a way to tackle India’s insane driving protocols. Keeping all this in mind, autonomous cars operating in India are as far a reality as humans shifting to Mars.

Hence, Nitin Gadkari’s claim of saving employment of drivers by not allowing autonomous cars in India appears to be a statement given in haste – something that hasn’t really been thought over. Employment or no employment, India won’t be getting autonomous cars in the near future anyway. Hiding the country’s incapabilities under the cover of unemployment isn’t something the government should focus on.

And if the Indian road conditions were ideal for autonomous cars, Nitin Gadkari won’t really be considered wise to disallow a vital technology like self-driving cars to abandon the country. The next couple of decades will be shaped by aritificial intelligence and machine learning. And the countries that don’t catch up in these domains will be the biggest losers.

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