Why you won’t be buying a driverless car any time soon

A great invention they might be, but excitement won’t buy you a driverless car. As always, the political barriers have been overlooked.

In a time of squeezed living standards where increased government borrowing and privately-funded infrastructure have fallen out of favour, it is likely that revolutionary changes to global infrastructure will be opposed from all quarters. Driverless cars could be run off the road.

But perhaps more importantly, there is a real human dimension to this story, lost behind the giddy squeals of tech nerds:

…driverless cars pose existential questions for several important interest groups. By some accounts, there are 10m Americans employed in industries related to driving…

Consider the introduction of autonomous school buses. It would not be practical to roll out autonomous buses across the board instantly – even in the fastest of revolutions, things can be staggered. So imagine the fear and outrage of those parents whose children go first into the driverless death machine. With nothing less than a well-orchestrated campaign, moments like this could easily spiral out of control, halting the entire process.

It is both frustrating and deeply unsurprising that policy makers have failed to recognise any of these obstacles. But just because Zuckerberg and Musk say it’s cool doesn’t make it good policy.

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The Wrong Time For An Election

At 11.15am on Wednesday, Theresa May announced that there will be a general election on June 8th, a significant step towards implementing her vision of a hard Brexit. In announcing an election – having refused to offer one, up to now – May has taken on considerable political risk.

After all, the very Brexit vote result which delivered her to Number 10 was never meant to have happened. The greater risk, however, is that this election misleads an electorate weary of endless Brexit chatter. If the terms of the debate are not set clearly, Britons may inadvertently allow the Conservative party to define the nature of Britain for decades to come.

And how?

In June, empowered by her election victory, May will argue that she has a mandate for her particularly hard kind of Brexit, when the electorate will, in reality, have voted for her strength in leadership. A vote about competence will be held up as a vote for ideas – delivery as destination…

Her majority secured, May will have the democratic mandate to guide not only the negotiations running up to 2019 but also the shape of the political economy thereafter. Under the conditions of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, May has the right to govern for five years – up to 2022. This will give her government a three-year free license to alter domestic policy, after negotiations close in spring 2019.

Voters be wary – this election is more important than it seems…

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Huawei Leading The Way

One clear sign that the world economy is moving eastwards: Huawei…

Founded in the late 1980s as a telecommunications company, Huawei moved into smartphones in the late 2000s. By targeting the lower end of the global market, the company has acquired an 8.3% market share, coming in third behind Apple and Samsung. In the first quarter of 2016, it sold 10 million more units than the year before, as Apple saw decreasing sales.

And the secret to that success?

…some 80,000 employees have a direct stake in the company, receiving stock and dividends. Employees can get a greater stake for hard work, as long as they contribute to the company’s success. In a rare act of entrepreneurial charity, founder Ren Zhengfei has retained only 1.4% of his company.

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How NOT to Get Businesses Building

Much has been said of the Tories’ poor record in public services, but far too little on their business policy. A closer look at infrastructure suggests that Osborne and co. had little to no understanding of how business works:

Hoping to encourage more investment, the government launched two flagship programmes in the early 2010s: the Pensions Infrastructure Platform and UK Guarantees Scheme. Both have failed to meet their targets.

Each of these schemes illustrates precisely why the UK has failed to attract sufficient private sector investment. The Pensions Infrastructure Platform –  a scheme designed to pool the resources of UK pension funds in order to reduce the risk any individual fund takes on – has become the latest in a long line of ‘market reforms’ ignorant of the old adage: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. When investors do want to invest in infrastructure – as in Australia and Canada – they will find their own means to spread risk and pool resources. The government does not need to do this for them.

Closer to solving the problem is the UK Guarantees Scheme, which insures investors against the enormous risks they take on when building new railway lines and power stations. Inadvertently, however, it neuters the central benefit that private investment brings. By preventing the full transfer of construction risk, private investors lose the incentive to deliver on time and to budget. The government might as well fund the building itself.

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