India to Ban Driverless Cars to Protect Jobs?

India’s transportation minister says the country plans to ban driverless cars, ostensibly to protect transportation industry jobs, according to a report in the Hindustan Times.

Union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari, citing an industry shortage of 2.2 million drivers, says the country’s unemployment rate necessitates a ban on driverless cars.

Union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari said on Tuesday, “We won’t allow driverless cars in India. 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.”

There is demand for 22 lakh [2.2 million] commercial drivers in India at present, he said, for which the government has planned to open 100 driver training institutes across the country. “Five lakh [500 thousand] people will get jobs over the next five years,” Gadkari claimed.

However, the same story notes that legislation currently making its way through India’s parliament could undermine the minister’s position:

Incidentally, the proposed Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2017, pending in Rajya Sabha, has provisions that allow testing of such new technology. “In order to promote innovation and research and development in the fields of vehicular engineering, mechanically propelled vehicles and transportation in general, the central government may exempt certain types of mechanically propelled vehicles from the application of the provisions of this Act,” reads a clause.

Regardless, even if the ban doesn’t go through, the road & traffic situations in India make it unlikely that driverless cars will make their way to the country anytime soon, according to former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick & Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

I don’t think for a country like India you are gonna see, as Travis said, completely automated cars. But just like technology assisting humans, we make cars over time so that they are safer, the driving experience is comfortable, and people’s quality of life improves and overall society improves because the cars are shared better. All these are the possibilities I am excited about. I think we will play a role in that.

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