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A Driverless Future?

It has come to my attention through the British press that a new scheme is beginning to take shape within the UK. A pilot scheme in the planned city of Milton Keynes is seeing the development of driverless cars that will ferry people around the city on planned trackways. It has been predicted that more and more of these will be brought into use over the next decade. Driverless cars have already been introduced at Heathrow airport for passengers in the high flying (see what I did there?) business class. This whole concept of driverless cars is fascinating, and having read up on the topic I believe the time has come for me to set forth unto the world my views on this issue.

Are driverless cars the future of the motoring world? Or are they more trouble than they are worth?

Driverless cars have been the talk of science-fiction for years; we dream of hopping into our car and being driven to where we want to go. Sometimes this has involved talking cars, Knight Rider for example, or maybe even cars that ‘have a heart’ in the form of the loveable Beetle Herbie. However, I am just going to put it out there, speaking as a driver, I am not sure I really want that. Technology is moving at such a pace these days that before we know it, the human input will have been lost altogether.

I am fully aware that the margin for error when it comes to human control is giganto-normous (another new word courtesy of me). But then again, it is not like computer technology itself is perfect. I have seen too many times a computer crashing for no apparent reason, losing me many hours of work that is not always recovered… So do not go telling me that computers are perfect and do not go wrong. Let’s be honest here, if a driverless car shuts down mid-journey, there would be nothing to do but await your fate, whereas human error in many cases is instantly correctable.

This went so well last time...

This went so well last time…

I would like to draw your attention to the example of Jurassic Park. The cars used in the park were completely driverless and controlled by computers. As pointed out, the headlights stopped responding quite early on into the tour, which should have been warning sign number one. But then, as I just said, when the entire computer system crashes, the cars are stranded by the T-Rex paddock and are then totally ripped apart by the tiny armed beast that is the T-Rex. Maybe we should take this film as a warning for the future. Maybe it is a foretelling the future of humans and our machines.

As I have previously stated, in the UK these driverless machines are already in use at Heathrow airport, but only for the select special few with the economic means to afford them. I will be the first to admit that this is a neat little idea to have tiny pod cars taking you from one place to another within a defined territory. I would love a go in one of these pods, but I would see it as nothing more than a novelty as opposed to the next step forward in motoring.

In the case of Milton Keynes, the cars will run on defined track ways across the city. This comes as part of a proposed plan to ease traffic and congestion. Similarly, in the USA Google have been given a mountain of money to investigate the effectiveness of driverless technology to explode into the public sector. One of my main concerns is not with the pods themselves, in fact it is more of a conceptual thing. If the cars are taking people from one place to another on defined track ways, surely they have stopped becoming cars and have transformed into another version of public transport. Surely they are becoming a mixture of a bus and a train. Is that really a car?

The proposed designs for the new driverless cars in the UK

The proposed designs for the new driverless cars in the UK

Furthermore, these pods appear to only hold one person at a time – will that not be of great cost to the taxpayer (I mean, who else is it going to be charged to if we are honest). Would it not make sense to have cars to fit multiple people? Or is my logic just too well thought out for the British government to think it is a good idea? My final issue with the concept of the driverless car is one of love. By this, I mean that I love driving and everything that it involves. I know humanity is on a quest for ultimate safety in all that we do, but that does take a lot of the fun out of it. I am not afraid to say that I like the fact that we are not perfect; I like the fact that we make mistakes every now and again, i like the fact we all have a chance to show our individuality. If we are all destined for a future of driverless cars, where will the imagination go? Where will the personality go? It is estimated by 2050 that all production cars will have ceased to be using the combustion engine. If we are going to lose the majesty of the V8 for example, let us at least keep the joy of driving for US not the computers.

I am all for the idea of incorporating driverless cars into society. But please, keep it in a contained context. The way it works at Heathrow is great. This proposed plan for city travel in Milton Keynes is forward thinking and quite brilliant. And I know that the motoring world is trying to keep up with the rate of change in technology but please, no more. For the future of motoring as we know it, do not be afraid to speak your mind! Let us preserve what we all love.

…after all, we do not want to be eaten by a T-Rex now do we?

Keep Driving People!

Follow me on Twitter: @lewisglynn69

Peace and Love!