The most famous electric vehicle company, Tesla recently announced that the full self-driving hardware, which has already been installed on the test units of the Model S, X and 3, will be further developed and updated for achieving full self-driving capabilities in the future. This shows how autonomous car technology is truly becoming more prevalent nowadays and driverless vehicles are not only appearing in sci-fi movies, but also in our daily life. Some says that it will be the next trend on automobile market after electric vehicles. Undeniably, countries like the US having a higher level of consumption and greater demand of high-tech products can let driverless car industries continue to grow. Yet, in Hong Kong, popularization of unmanned cars may not happen so soon.
Although automatic transmission, hybrid cars and electric cars are often to be seen on the roads, especially when Tesla and Prius are almost everywhere in the city, Transport Department does not allow the use of autonomous vehicles on roads, even for testing. Compared to the States and Singapore, the attitude of the Hong Kong government is way more conservative in supporting the growth of automotive industry. Instead of supporting the development of transportation technology in this cosmopolitan, Uber, car racing, modification of vehicles and the other related services are mostly banned and illegal. Many factors and limitations cause the Hong Kong government to have a low incentive to support the automotive industry. It would be hard for citizens to accept new car technology and culture without the promotion and support from the government, unlike people from Macau, who are just living 60 km away from Hong Kong, being hyped for Grand Prix. Therefore, it is not hard to tell that Hong Kong is not ready for driverless vehicles when the government is not supportive.
However, government’s concerns about the safety of driverless cars are still reasonable. Cars being driven by nobody still sound unsafe to both drivers and passengers since there are no human operators or even a steering wheel to control those beasts with hundreds of horsepower. Especially when roads in Hong Kong are usually more narrow and steeper than other countries due to the geographical features in Hong Kong. Passengers have no clues about the condition of the self-driving cars and drivers cannot communicate with driverless cars by light signals and honking, which means there is nearly no one on the road who knows what to do if a self-driving vehicle stops halfway or even crashes something. And there is no concrete evidence to prove a car driven by itself is completely safe on the road. For all these reasons and uncertainties, autonomous car technology is still not mature enough to convince people to widely use it, at least for Hong Kong people.
Besides the safety issues, the demand for and necessity of autonomous vehicles in Hong Kong is relatively low. Living in a small city, Hong Kong citizens rarely need to travel long distances. Not to mention the public transport system in Hong Kong which is cheap and convenient enough for people to travel around. So there is no such need for self-driving cars when people can choose comfortable and convenient public transport or enjoy the delightful moments of driving. Also if driverless vehicles are used in public transport, bus drivers and taxi drivers may need to face a massive layoff. Thus people would oppose the idea of popularizing those vehicles when they will only worsen the problem of unemployment and cost a great amount of money without sufficient benefits. Uber is also banned due to the complaint from furious taxi drivers, which is a case in point. Consequently, driverless vehicles will not be welcomed in Hong Kong.
To conclude, the autonomous car technology will eventually become the mainstream in the automotive industry since technology products will always be improving, with the relatively outdated eliminated by times. Yet, time is needed for people to accept that new technology is changing their lifestyle. Obviously, Hong Kong is not ready for driverless vehicles by now.