In a shock move, the Indian transport minister has said that his country simply will not allow self-driving cars on to its roads as it wants to protect jobs.
America, Europe and the Far East are making great strides towards a driverless future, but India is one of the world’s biggest economies thanks to sheer weight of numbers.
This is a bitter pill
There are 1.324 billion people in India, which makes it a massive market and it’s a severe blow to the autonomous car industry that Nitin Gadkari has said that there is no chance of the country softening its stance.
“We won’t allow driverless cars in India,” Gadkari, the minister of road transport and highways, told The Hindustan Times. “I am very clear on this.
“We won’t allow any technology that takes away jobs. In a country where you have unemployment, you can’t have a technology that ends up taking people’s jobs.”
Can this really work?
This might not be a viable position in the long-term, though, as Indian firms will be forced to compete with foreign suppliers that can take advantage of reduced transport costs.
If the Indian government steadfastly refuses to accept automation in all its forms then it will really struggle to compete in almost every industry.
Self-driving cars are just part of the autonomous equation. Production line workers, warehouse pickers and more are set to fall by the wayside as autonomous technology improves.
If India rejects all of this out of hand, its costs will be disproportionately high, the economy will inevitably suffer and the government could be forced to rethink this hardline stance.
With EVs, it was a different story
It’s a surprise to hear this from the Indian government at all. It was one of the first in the world to champion the concept of banning petrol and diesel cars from its roads completely in 2030 to pave the way for the EV evolution.
Even though many citizens live beneath the poverty line, the government was even considering a plan to loan everybody the money to buy a new electric car.
So now, it’s strange to hear such vehement opposition for technology that is just around the corner and we think it will be a hard position to back in the long run.
India is training more drivers
Right now, though, Gadkari is sticking to his guns. He wants to encourage 2.2 million more drivers in the commercial sector within the next five years and he wants to create 100 new driver training centers.
Tata had already tested a self-driving car on the roads of India, although it confessed to running into serious problems with rickshaws and India’s other unique challenges.
“Our system cannot identify 15 per cent of the vehicles on the Indian road,” said Nitin Pai, Tata Elxsi’s senior vice president and head of strategy and marketing. “The driverless car is ready for the road. But is the road ready for the car?”
If Gadkari gets his way, then it never will be.