Why Autonomous Driving Will Never Ever Work In Malaysia

Letting your car drive itself is unfortunately but a pipe dream for us here in Malaysia. 

Whenever talk about the future of the automobile comes up, the discussion typically revolves around two topics: electrification and automation. While Malaysia may slowly but surely be on the way to the former, the latter automotive innovation looks however to be unfortunately a long, long, long way away for motorists over here to enjoy.  

Putting aside the distrust many still have with computers doing the driving, the main reason why self-driving cars in Malaysia especially are not to be seen in the foreseeable future is primarily because the roads are just in terrible shape. And no I don’t mean just its condition, but the more important fact that the lines and markings on our roads are practically non-exinsistant. 

Most of the time these markings are faded beyond oblivion under the hot Malaysian sun, and more often than not the road-builders have just not bothered drawing them after repaving the roads too. Leaving part of the road therefore with the faded lines, and the other part with absolutely no lines at all. 

This is of course what us Malaysians have grown accustomed to and is perhaps something many won’t notice. Ask a computer to figure it all out on itself though, and it’ll just throw its hands up by returning a 404 Error before asking you to take the wheel for the rest of the way. 

To add to that too, unlike other more developed metropolises like Tokyo or even Singapore with organised road networks, Malaysian cities have instead just risen up rather haphazardly from its old times roots. Meaning that it is not all that uncommon to see the widening and narrowing of roads in just a short stretch, which further stumps the electronic brain that is attempting its hardest to take over the driving duties from the human behind the wheel. 

Now continuing on the subject of humans behind the wheel, Malaysian drivers are also part of the blame as to why fully self-driving cars will be a long time coming over here. Typically autonomous driving systems prefer leaving a car length (at least) between it and the leading car, Malaysians on the other hand are of the mentality that the suitable gap in between cars should be measured in millimetres instead, with anything beyond that equating to an invitation to cut in. 

So with all these factors combined then, it is perhaps unsurprisingly easy to conclude why automakers are ditching the self-driving tech typically offered elsewhere in Malaysian-spec cars. Something which typically puzzle buyers who are increasingly expecting such tech in their new cars these days. 

Having recently spent time in one such car with all the tech though, the time spent tending to the system itself on the road was more than driving the car itself. Just to make clear too, the Elantra’s system — that included both an incredibly intelligent adaptive cruise control and active lane centring — is undoubtably one of the best in the business seen here today, but even then it is still often stumped by the terrible state of Malaysian roads. 

To those dreaming then of being able to hop into a car and magically arrive at their destination without doing anything, the only feasible way of doing that in Malaysia for the foreseeable future would unfortunately still be by way of Grab or a taxi. 

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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