Stop with the self-driving cars, I want an electric car

I don’t know where you live, at least not until I complete “the device”, but petrol (gas to those in the US) is far too expensive in Australia.  What gets me the most however is not  the price, it’s the price fluctuations, one week it will be $1.10/litre, the next it will be $1.30/litre and another it will be $1.60/litre.  I can’t think of another product we use on a regular basis that has such huge variations in price, can you?  But we just put up with it, dutifully paying whatever the ridiculous price is because we have to, we need petrol to travel.  Now I’m obviously ignoring those who use public transport and those who spend far too much time searching for the cheapest price.  Sorry guys, you are the smart minority, the rest of us, the chumps, pay far too much for car fuel.

Who’s to blame?

I really don’t know who’s to blame, I have no idea who to point my pitchfork at, is it the nebulous “markets”?  The oil barons?  The oil companies?  The petrol retailers?  A little of A, B, C and D?  I’ve no idea, I know that Australian governments don’t care though, at the federal level we have indexation of the fuel tax, meaning the tax goes up twice a year and then at the state level we have the GST (Goods and Services Tax) which is a flat rate of 10% but of course as the price of fuel increases that 10% cut increases as well.  So everyone is winning except the consumer.

The Solution

The solution is simple.  Electric cars, remove the “petrol” problem altogether.  But car companies, for God’s sake, stop with the self-driving cars.  Don’t get me wrong, I would love a self-driving car, as long as it doesn’t decide that I’m a threat to its existence and drive me into a wall, but I don’t need one, it’s not a solution I desperately need.  I already drive and have done for decades.  What I actually need is to stop paying thousands of dollaroos every year on wildly fluctuating, wildly overpriced fuel.

In engineering, there are two things you should always do:

  1. Avoid scope creep.
  2. Only solve one problem at a time.

The first point is obvious, when trying to solve a problem, make sure that you stay focused on what you want to achieve, otherwise you never finish.  The second is more subtle, it means don’t try and be an expert in everything at once.  I see far too many car companies telling us that they are making electric self-driving cars.  Just stop, start with making a cheap, reliable electric car then move onto the self-driving thing.

Here’s a list of electric vehicles available in Australia.  Only seven of them are fully battery powered, i.e. electric, the rest are hybrids of some kind.  Of those seven two are Teslas and start at a price of $115,000, of the other 5 the Hyundai IONIQ and Nissan Leaf are double what I want to pay at around $50,000.  You see I want an electric car because of economics, not because I want to save the world.  Saving the world (and climate change is hitting Australia hard this year) will follow naturally from it.  So I don’t want to pay more for the car than I would get from fuel savings.

What I find most bizarre is that Toyota, Hyundai, Holden and Nissan would make a fortune if they created a cost effective, family electric car range.  Nobody cars about what fuels their car, nobody would mind plugging their car in to a socket to refuel rather than standing at a petrol bowser, we recently got rid of single use plastic bags here in Queensland and the world continued working but if you could fuel your car for cents rather than dollars you would care.

So car companies, I beg you, create electric cars first, then focus on self-driving ones.

Author note

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