Where autonomous vehicles are already motoring

The media focus on autonomous vehicles has been on whether they can take over from human drivers on public roads. It’s the thing that would touch most people and catches the imagination, but as I discovered writing about the subject for Computer Weekly, it’s going to take a lot of work.

However, autonomous vehicles are already being successfully used off-road, in places such as mines, distribution centres and fields. Volvo Group has put a driverless truck down a Swedish mine and put its chief technology officer in front of the truck, fortunately without messy results. Continue reading “Where autonomous vehicles are already motoring”

IT should focus on productivity not eliminating people

Earlier this month I took part in the Milton Keynes self-driving car trial, for a forthcoming article for Computer Weekly. Sitting in a car that steers its own wheel was enormous fun. However, it was striking that those I spoke to for the article thought that fully driverless cars on public roads are a long way off. Such technology is generally better-suited to making operators more productive rather than replacing them.

There is something of an obsession within tech for eliminating people completely, whether drivers or customer service staff. But with the latter, where the process has gone a lot further, the result is often frustrated rather than delighted customers, and the same is likely to be true of any process that involves human users – which is most of them. As Izabella Kaminska argues in the FT’s Alphaville blog, among many other drawbacks, properly driverless taxis would quickly end up twice as filthy as night buses at dawn with no-one to supervise them. Continue reading “IT should focus on productivity not eliminating people”

Baniots: build absolutely nothing in Oxford… try Swindon

Building something new in Britain always meets resistance. That even applies to organisations which put their cities on the map, such as the University of Oxford, its new library buildings and student accommodation.

First published on Beacon. Continue reading “Baniots: build absolutely nothing in Oxford… try Swindon”

e-Borders: still over here, still a mess – article for The Register

Last week, The Register published my review of e-Borders, a government IT scheme that deserves more attention than it gets. Presumably politicians’ wish to sound tough on immigration stands in the way, but the UK’s system for tracking international journeys has big problems that it is hard to see anyone solving. Continue reading “e-Borders: still over here, still a mess – article for The Register”

Police ANPR: Ring of steel for MATTER, sieves of steel for rural cops

MATTER, each issue of which consists of a single long feature article on science and technology, has run some great stories since its launch last autumn (as well as trying to find new ways to make journalism pay).

In my humble and biased opinion, I think it has just published another one: ‘Ring of steel’ by James Bridle, which I co-edited and is based partly on my Freedom of Information-based research into how the police use automatic numberplate recognition. It’s available from MATTER. Continue reading “Police ANPR: Ring of steel for MATTER, sieves of steel for rural cops”