ROAD accidents are in the top 10 causes of death globally. Every 30 seconds someone somewhere dies in a car crash. Around 200 per year in Scotland alone and 94 per cent of those accidents are caused by driver error. Far from being a safety concern autonomous vehicles offer an opportunity to dramatically reduce this death toll. And while there are legal liability issues to be resolved, the insurance industry welcomes the move to autonomous transport.

Technology is blind to inequalities. How society chooses to configure itself around the technology is what determines whether it is a force for good or bad. A hands-off approach, pretending that nothing will change, guarantees that the driverless economy will default to privately owned and run systems that exacerbate inequalities, pushing more cost onto the public sector as a consequence.

READ MORE: European cash boost of £5m for ground-breaking Scottish research

However, active engagement by government – local and national – can ensure the opposite is the case.

We have seen the impact of varying models of ownership potentially collapsing the cost of autonomous vehicle rental.

So in a world where taxi costs per mile are a fraction of what they are today, why wait on a rainy night for a bus that may or may not turn up to timetable, when for the same cost a self-drive will be at your door, on demand, in a few minutes, to take you wherever you want to go? Smart connectivity also offers the option of shared rides with multiple scheduled pick-ups and drop-offs utilising larger vehicles or minibuses, which would reduce costs even further.

The public sector probably has much to gain in seizing the initiative. Otherwise the laws of economics will drive the surplus value created into the hands of vehicle producers and private network operators.

The effect on some disadvantaged groups could be positive. Many disabilities, including blindness, would no longer be a barrier to accessing personal transport on the same terms as the rest of the population. Those growing old and frail no longer needing to worry about losing their ability to travel independently.

There would be flexibility to schedule multiple trips – driving to work, doing the school run and picking up shopping all at the same time. The productivity gains from working during commutes could add up to billions. Cyber security is always a threat, as it is with all interconnected critical systems, be they air traffic control or energy network management. But as in these other industries that risk is manageable.

While safety and regulatory issues need to be considered, and solutions designed in, and where necessary legislated for, opting out of the technology is no more an option than uninventing air travel or the internet. The Government needs to be ahead of the curve here, and not running to catch up: assessing legislative and regulatory needs and being proactive in working with technology companies. And as with so much of this revolution, the earlier these issues are assessed and plans put in place the better. Society at large needs to be a beneficiary of automation and not a victim.