A Twitter conversation I had recently, regarding the traffic problem of Kigali’s increasingly congested roads, came to mind and I suddenly had a notion of what I want the near future of transport in Rwanda to look like.
In the tweets I had posted, my focus was on drastically increasing traffic fines, reducing the number of vehicles allowed on these roads by implementing road space rationing based on rotating between RAA, RAB, RAC, RAD plates etc. Also the introduction of the Point System. I still think these are great tools for reducing jams and making the roads safer. That is for the present. However, here’s an idea for the near future. We ought to strive for a transport network which no longer permits fossil fuel vehicles, and consists entirely of electric self-driving cars and buses etc. In this near future Rwanda, nobody owns cars anymore except people who work in the health sector, emergency services, law enforcement, military or government. The self-driving vehicles circulate through the Rwandan road network, and when you need to go somewhere, your smartphone or similar device is used for hailing a self-driving car. You get in, and thanks to the natural language processing artificial intelligence (AI) which drives the vehicle, all you have to do is speak the name of your destination or route. Alternatively, you can select the destination/route from a menu on a touchscreen. Then you pay the fare electronically, and you’re on your way.
The self-driving AIs are programmed with the Rwandan traffic code and are linked to all other self-driving vehicles through the self-driving transport network, thereby eliminating traffic jams caused by bad driving. Each self-driving vehicle constantly downloads real time traffic data, which enables it to always pick the quickest route by bypassing higher density traffic. This prevents the build up of congested traffic or gridlocks.
When you reach your destination you disembark and the self-driving car goes back into circulation until someone else calls it. These self-driving vehicles can be owned by private companies, or state transport authorities. The vehicles all adhere to the same technical and safety standards and specifications, ensuring inter-operability.
In this scenario drivers licenses and personal vehicles become as difficult to acquire as firearms licenses and firearms. The existing self-driving transport infrastructure makes knowing how to drive or owning your own vehicle obsolete. With this eco-friendly national transport network, our dependency on fossil fuels would be greatly reduced, and transportation costs would drop, bringing down the prices of goods and services.
Another positive effect: jobs are created in the sector of research and development, design and manufacturing, production and maintenance of the self-driving transport network. Yes, I envision these self-driving vehicles being developed and produced here in Rwanda, used in Rwanda, and potentially exported internationally. Rwandan scientists, technicians, programmers, engineers, mechanics, electricians, mathematicians, designers, and so on – all finding sustained employment in Rwanda’s self-driving vehicles sector. This is a bright future that I would like to see realized in Rwanda. How about you?
Header image credits: by InspiredImages – pixabay- Image license: CC0 Public Domain