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Impossible Reality: Rinspeed showcases Driverless Concept

When we are but innocent younglings we are introduced to a world of limitless wonder and excitement; we are introduced to science-fiction and fantasy.  Call me a walking cliche but Star Wars has and will always be the very epitome of ultimate childhood fantasies coming to life. Well I say coming to life, you know what I mean. I have grown up immersed in these made up worlds where there are no boundaries and anything is possible. When I was a young boy, I had an unfaltering belief that one day these films would become reality. However, as the years went by I was gripped with a growing wave of realisation and abject disappointment; I would never see my dreams of becoming a Jedi and flying around in armoured spaceships becoming a reality. This technology was an impossible dream.

…or is it?

As a boy, this was going to be my first vehicle...

As a boy, this was going to be my first vehicle…

The Geneva Motor Show has just ignited a fire I thought had been long since extinguished. It may take a couple of years, it may take a good many more, but self-driving cars will become a showroom regular in our lifetime. My mind is blown. Some of the main contenders in this development are BMW, Ford, IBM and of course, Google. I am surprised Apple are not getting in on the action too. Give it time and I’m sure the iDrive will be emptying the pockets of the world. Considering the names in that list, I think the best result would involve a collaborative effort between a car manufacturer and a computing technology company. After all, computers are assimilating themselves into all aspects of society, and the best way to do it is to work with the existing leaders in the respective fields.

One of the chief names in the development of driverless technology in cars, who heads the Swiss think tank called Rinspeed has made it clear that the passenger will be at the centre of what is possible, not the autonomous driving technology itself. At the show, Rinspeed  Furthermore, his beliefs about the development of the automotive industry puts into perspective the rate of progress in the modern world…

“When I look back at how things were, it looks like the Stone Age. There will come a time when we will be travelling in a container, with no airbags or seatbelts because the chances of an accident will be so small” – Frank Rinderknecht (CEO at Rinspeed)

Rinspeed are focusing on developing the ultimate passenger experience. Image Credit:  BBC News

Rinspeed are focusing on developing the ultimate passenger experience. Image Credit: BBC News

The concept for the passenger experience in these new futuristic machines has been worked on the idea of the first class airline cabin, where the passenger can sit in comfort while leaving the stress and demand of the journey to the pilot, or in this case, a fancy computer system. One of the main problems to tackle will be overall ride comfort; if we are to believe the above picture the user will be able to sit comfortably with a cup of coffee right next to them. Now I don’t know about you, but in the UK especially, finding a smooth enough road to even keep anything balanced atop the dashboard may as well be declared impossible. Therefore, a great deal of fancy number crunching and mechanical wizardry will have to be undertaken. On top of all of this, the driving console (it seems to fancy to just be called a steering wheel) will be in the centre to maximise the space for a fully fledged entertainment system that gives passengers access to whatever they may desire. Of course, those inside the car will be fully connected to the outside world in real time through the joyous wonder that is cloud software.

Everything is sounding rather glorious right now wouldn’t you say? Wouldn’t it just be the worst if I now came and rained on your parade?

  1. How catastrophically expensive will a car like this be? It will be a car designed for the mega-rich, most likely top end footballers and sheikhs from far away lands. That was always one of the things that has popped into my head when I watch these sci-fi films, is just how much all this stuff would cost. I can only guess that in the same way with all the latest technology, the initial market introduction will be a number to boggle the minds of most of us, but over time when it becomes more commonplace the price will drop. Either that or the general public will get a cut price version of this luxury. The economy class to their first class cabin if you will (if we are following this airline analogy)
  2. Gaining the Trust of the Customer – If you told me that I could sit in a car and it would drive itself to wherever I want to go, after my initial reaction of awe and wonder, I would probably be filled with a mild form of terror. Convincing people that you have developed a safe machine that will not end in a mess of blood guts and a treat for future archaeologists will be a hard job. This leads me onto the main issue I see with this whole operation
  3. Safety – If you had the choice of getting in a plane with pilots or one that flew itself, I think I know which one most people would choose. It is true that human error is the largest cause of airline incidents. But in the same way, human error or a computer malfunction may be corrected by the pilot. I am sure we have all had the situation where you are working away on your computer and it suddenly freezes and will not respond. How will any of us know that this same thing will not happen in these new driverless cars? When the London underground introduced driverless trains, there have been a few cases of trains running out of control and only being saved by the controllers who took manual control back from the command centre as it were.

I would also like to yet again draw your attention to Jurassic Park, which is becoming the trademark comparison point for me when it comes to the automotive universe. If you remember, the 4x4s in that film were essentially driverless cars, and look what happened when they lost power. People were attacked by a T-Rex. Imagine if you owned one of these new driverless cars and it lost power, do you want to run the risk of being attacked by a T-Rex? Do any of us really want to be attacked by a T-Rex? It is an important point to consider, you know.

At the end of the day, the future success of self-driving cars will fall down on trust. It requires the full trust of the owners to feel safe. With any new idea, new theory, revolutionary change there will always be distrust. It is only natural that we will be both intrigued and suspicious of what we do not understand until we have received proof of its credibility. I mean there was once a time where the theory of evolution was looked on with horror and mountains of criticism, now look where we are.

It may take the next few generations to fully integrate ourselves with this new technology, but it will be there. The future is coming.

Maybe those dreams of spaceships, hover boots and lightsabers are not as impossible as we first thought.

In the great words of Journey, ‘Don’t Stop Believing’.

Keep Driving People!

Follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69

Peace and Love!

One comment

  1. Megan says:

    Actually, if you want to just sit there and relax while being taken to your destination without paying out the nose, the technology already exists. It’s called a B-U-S!

    March 10th, 2014 at 6:48 am