There has been a video of a supposed self-driving car in Lagos. The first time I saw the video, a close look told me that the chances of that being an autonomous driving vehicle was next to zero. Why? It will be my pleasure to tell you.
The tell-take signs of rigged self-driving cars are absent: there is usually a rack of cameras and sensors on the roof, and sometimes also on the bonnet and the boot. Because most autonomous vehicles are still in test phase, those sensors and cameras are not built in. Regular cars are modified and rigged with them. This particular “self-driving”car did not have any such rack.
This is a picture of the Lagos car:
This is a picture of what a rigged self-driving car looks like (notice the rack on the roof):
Here is another from Uber (again, see the rack on the car?):
That Lagos car is a 2012 Toyota Corolla. Please. For a model that old to be capable of self-driving ability, it needs to be fitted with sensors and cameras. As said before, it has none of those.
Next, who is TechPlus in the self-driving world? We know Uber, Google, Baidu, NuTonomy, and others with autonomous driving technologies. But TechPlus? Who were they? Does anyone have any info on them?
Yes; I do. TechPlus is a tech conference that has been holding in Nigeria since 2015. Do you see “#TechPlus2016”, the URL, and the MTN logo on that car? Aha! Billed as “Nigeria’s largest tech event”, the organisers of the conference clearly used this car as a publicity stunt for the event. MTN were sponsors of the conference.
An Old Stunt From 2016
Lastly, that video that everyone is flipping over is two years old. Here is the official video as published by MTN, who were official sponsors of TechPlus2016, and it was published in 2016 too:
No; that car people have been hyping was not a self-driving vehicle. At best, it was controlled remotely – you know like your child’s remote-controlled car or a drone. Even less flattering, as pointed out by Saheed Adepoju, it could be that the driver was disguised dressed up as the car seat.
Surely, if it was a real self-driving car, it would have been demonstrated at the TechPlus 2016 event itself. What better way to hype the conference as the best thing to happen to Nigeria’s tech ecosystem than a real autonomous driving vehicle? But it wasn’t.
As a publicity stunt for TechPlus 2016, I am not sure how successful it was, if the buzz around the car is just catching on in 2018, two years after the conference it was used for. We also need to keep enlightening people. I kept waiting for someone – one person – to say that this does not look like a self-driving vehicle.
It looks like I have to be that person, so here goes: That was not a self-driving car on the streets of Lagos. It was a nice publicity stunt that didn’t quite catch on at the time it was needed.
When Will We See A Real Self-driving Car In Lagos?
I have no idea, but a good guess is, whenever the companies behind the technology think that it will make business sense to spend that kind of money in Lagos and get good returns. Many cities around the world that have more advanced technology and infrastructure, in addition to greater economic prospects, have not seen autonomous vehicles yet.
Except an organisation with really big muscles is looking to pull a publicity stunt with a real autonomous car, or until one of Nigeria’s billionaires imports a Tesla, it may take a while. Calm down, everybody.