Thursday, March 17, 2016

Self driving cars - the Indian dilemma

I read an article about self driving cars which got me thinking about the prospects of such a car in an Indian context. Aside from the general problems that autonomous cars have to tackle, I could instantly think of  a few additional and unique problems of its own in an Indian context.

The direction dilemma: At times when I end up in a new intersection, I have a few problems waiting to be solved before I can proceed towards the destination.
  • Missing signal posts
  • Misaligned signal posts
  • Signal post not visible from the stop line because it's sometimes right over the head and even behind it.
The stop dilemma: On one occasion, the car in front stopped and I stopped behind it as well but later realized that the car has "pulled off" for a break without any indication.

The indicator dilemma: How many times I have driven behind a vehicle with the indicator on assuming that it will take a turn but later realized that it wouldn't because the driver had forgot to switch it off after the last turn.

The pass dilemma: I have wondered for a long time why the switch to blink the headlight is marked as "pass" on my motorcyle. In India this is used for the exactly opposite purpose, i.e. to THREATEN the oncomers to STOP when one wants to take a turn.

The indicator dilemma: Driving on highways, it took me some time to realize that the turn indicator is used by a vehicle in the front to signal it's intention to allow the vehicle behind it to overtake.

The honking dilemma: I am riding and not doing anything wrong and some one honks from behind - what should I do.

These are just a few scenarios that came to my mind instantly. SURPRISES are the norm here, even an experienced driver has to think twice before making a decision, leave alone the self driving cars. Last night I was taken by surprise when I saw the display board on a minibus flashing green LEDs and for a second thought that it was the traffic signal. U-turns, I don't even want to talk about it. Many assumptions that is a starting point for the self driving cars will be rendered untrue, we need to raise to the ground fist before building on top of it. The irony is that, these cars will one day teach us how to behave on the road!

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