SO we are to have autonomous buses on the Fife-to-Edinburgh commuter route (Self-driving buses take to road for trials, Apr 25). Once again we are looking at the introduction of autonomous vehicles technology positively and somewhat naively.

However there are two particular drawbacks that present themselves.

The first is social, in that we lose at least one unit of taxation as a person is no longer employed and paid for the skill of driving the vehicle. In the worst cases the redundant driver, no longer providing income tax and National Insurance payments, may become a burden on the state as they have no other income. They may reduce the amount of VAT they contribute unless they find an equivalent job to maintain their standard of living.

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To tackle this effect we should be looking at taxing “robots” at the same level as human operators. Unless we do this, money that would be used in the community will end up in shareholders’ pockets and may be taken out of the economy completely.

The second effect is technological, in that the systems that are needed to support autonomous vehicles to communicate effectively with each other will be extremely energy-greedy and in the current climate emergency we cannot afford to increase energy use in this way. Along with this, the story that says these vehicles will be able to move in closer formation at speed than human piloted vehicles is belied by the need to consider a catastrophic mechanical failure such as a blowout. The thought of the middle vehicle of a group of nine on three lanes, travelling at 70mph in very close proximity, having a blowout is frightening in the extreme.

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The theorists who propose such a scenario are naïve as to the forces involved when such an incident occurs, and as a professional driver I have witnessed a heavy Mercedes saloon thrown onto its roof by front-tyre blowout and slide many yards along a motorway. Luckily for the driver he was on a reasonably clear road and came to a halt without further collision. Had this happened in heavy traffic, considerable damage would have been done to both vehicles and occupants.

The introduction of autonomous vehicles may not be the panacea that it seems and if their introduction only benefits the company running the vehicles then the community will see a similar effect as when the early Victorians introduced machinery into the textile industry throwing many skilled textile workers into extreme poverty and enriching a few while impoverishing the many.

David Neilson

I WAS interested to read the article “Ferry milestone reached as main hull nearly complete” (Apr 27). It appears that Hull 802, as the vessel is currently known, has eventually been fitted with its bow and the latest chief executive is quoted as saying: “My aim is to demonstrate that Ferguson Marine, in line with its historic reputation and without legacy issues, has the capability to deliver a new-build vessel."

There have recently been a number of interesting documentaries on TV concentrating on the fate of RMS Titanic, which sank after being in collision with an iceberg in March 1912 some 110 years ago.

Most have focussed on the disaster itself but the most recent documentary I watched concentrated on the actual build process. Construction of the ship commenced in March 1909 and it set sail on its fateful maiden voyage in March 1912, so exactly three years in construction from start to finish. The ship was one of two almost identical ships built in parallel in adjacent docks by the Belfast shipyard of Harland and Wolff.

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Trying to calculate comparative costs from 1912 to today is a science in itself. The original price is often quoted in dollars, but there were around five dollars to the pound in 1912. The best estimate is that the ship originally cost around £1.5 million, which – regardless of which variation of inflation formula you employ – is less than £400m in today’s money. An Australian billionaire businessman has undertaken a £400m project, dubbed Titanic ll, which he plans to be a close replica of the original. If you use a calculator from the website of a leading bank, £1.5 million in 1912 converts to only around £133m in today’s money.

Today’s massive modern luxury cruise ships also take around three years to construct and are currently averaging a cost of around £1 billion.

Titanic was almost 900 feet long, almost 100 feet wide and weighed in at more than 46,000 tons. She could carry more than 3,500 passengers and crew and more than 7000 tons of coal. The furnaces required more than 600 tons of coal a day to be shovelled into them by hand, requiring the services of 176 firemen working around the clock.

It is difficult to avoid this contrast with the two very much smaller island ferries currently under construction in Port Glasgow. Their combined cost has most probably now overtaken the inflation-adjusted build cost of the Titanic. If the two ferries are ever completed, they will have certainly taken more than twice the time that Harland and Wolff took to simultaneously construct both Titanic and its sister ship RMS Olympic back in1912.

The Scottish Government need to get this nightmare ended by getting these two ships in the water – preferably before any referendum.

Glenda Burns