India won’t be allowing driverless cars to navigate its busy streets anytime soon, according to the country’s minister for road transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari.
“No driverless cars will be allowed in India. The government is not going to promote any technology or policy that will make people jobless,” Gadkari said.
A ministry official confirmed the minister’s comments to CNN Money, but also said Gadkari was expressing his own opinion, not a set policy.
Gadkari cited India’s shortage of 2.2 million commercial drivers in his statement. To counter this dearth of drivers, the government plans to open 100 training facilities across the country to train 500,000 drivers in five years.
Uber, which operates in India to the consternation of the country’s traditional taxi drivers, is currently testing self-driving cars in America. Uber’s long term goal is to build an autonomous fleet of vehicles to pick up and drop off passengers. The company has faced heat from taxi drivers, who often can’t compete with the company’s low fares, as well as Uber drivers themselves, who went on strike last February for better pay. It also faces stiff competition from home-grown ride-hailing company, Ola.
“Cab aggregators like Ola and Uber are making money by using our driving skills,” said Gadkari. “If cab aggregators think they can make more money by introducing technology like driverless cars and render people unemployed, the government is not going to allow it.”
Currently, tech firms and automakers like Tesla, GM, Google, Volvo, and more are all racing to bring self-driving cars to roads across the country and the world. India doesn’t have any major companies testing self-driving cars in the country. In any case, the country’s congested and chaotic roads are difficult for autonomous cars to safely navigate at this stage.
The government has, however, invited Tesla to use it as the company’s manufacturing hub to distribute electric cars to Asian markets. Tesla’s new mass-market Model 3, which has the hardware to support autonomous driving, will be released in India in the near future. Gadkari’s resistance to the technology may mean Tesla’s Autopilot software will not be available for Indian customers to use at the same time customers in other countries have access to the full self-driving capability of the car.
Indian congressman Gaurav Pandhi tweeted in response to Gadkari’s remarks: “The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) said the same when Rajiv Gandhi talked about introducing computers to India. They haven’t really changed.”