Is Malaysia prepared for driverless cars?


By Soccer Dad

Driverless cars are the way forward where transportation is concerned and developed nations are gearing for it. Australia, for example, is planning for driverless cars to replace conventional cars by 2030, and so are developed countries in western Europe and the United States.

The driverless car, also called “autonomous car”, is a smart car that moves or stops by itself on planned routes and is capable of scanning the road environment as well as communicating with other driverless cars on the road.

Currently, a few units of driverless cars from several manufacturers, including Google, are being tested around the world, and the preliminary results have been encouraging though there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Transportation scientists have recognised the numerous benefits that can be seen in the use of driverless cars. First and foremost, driverless cars can reduce the number of road casualties as the cars are not driven by people, but are instead computerised, egoless machines.

It is a known fact that currently, about 90 per cent of road accidents are somewhat due to human error.

Since the driverless cars would be powered by electricity instead of carbon fuel, the environment would be cleaner and quieter. We can expect less pollution-related diseases once fully autonomous cars occupy the streets.

But what is even more interesting, driverless cars would enable more ride-sharing to be effectively carried out and there is almost no need for everyone to own a car. A driverless car is “just an app away”. This could reduce congestion, too.

If driverless cars were brought into Malaysia, they would reduce the transportation cost for every citizen, apart from the government being able to save billions of ringgit in terms of the costs of healthcare and emergency services from there being no road accidents.

Currently, Malaysia is estimated to lose more than RM10 billion due to the loss of lives and injuries let alone the property and vehicle damage, all as a result of road accidents.

While driverless cars appear to be close to reality – perhaps sooner than you think – hardly any word has been spoken about the topic by the relevant Malaysian authorities so far.

We have yet to hear about its possible implementation in Malaysia, or whether the government has come up with a policy paper or a task force on the matter.

Also, we have yet to hear whether the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) is carrying out any research, or if the Road Transport Department (JPJ) is making any plans to prepare for the influx of driverless cars.

They are many aspects that need to be considered such as the road environment, the law and regulations, security and data privacy issues, just to name a few. This requires the involvement of various parties, from the Federal to State and local governments; government agencies, as well as the private sector.

As we are moving towards becoming a developed country by 2020, take note that all the developed countries have low road fatalities. In developed countries, road deaths are only around 3-5 deaths per 100,000 populations per year, compared with 23 deaths per 100,000 people in Malaysia currently.

Driverless cars would be able to tremendously reduce the number of fatalities to even zero, and that has been the aim of many developed countries. But for now, we need the government to start looking into it.

Soccer Dad is an FMT reader.

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