Monthly Archives: January 2013

Back seat driving

Had an interesting and revealing pub chat with a few mates the other evening, regarding fully autonomous cars, all triggered by one of the lads having watched a segment on the Discovery channel.  Turns out that he was so appalled at the prospect of having to ditch his driving freedom, he switched the TV off through fear, half way through the show.


So many of us have cars sporting semi-autonomous systems as it is; adaptive cruise control, lane departure tech, driver alert monitor, self-parking etc, so it’s surely just a matter of time before everything is bunged together to create the self-driving steed.  Mate this to the mooted next generation of ‘talking’ cars and it would seem a dead cert.  And you know what, I’d personally love it. 

It would be difficult to imagine how on earth the system could be integrated (and funded) initially, but for the sake of argument let’s say it happens and it’s 100% computerised.  There would never again be another traffic jam.  Ever.  Think about that for a second.  You could start a journey at 5pm on a wet Friday evening and know exactly what time you would be at your destination.  You’d never have to travel in the dead of night to go to Cornwall, could leave work on time and head onto the M25 and never again have to consider queues and delays.

You’d gain years of cumulative time to do work, sleep, read, watch films or do anything, limited only by the size of a car interior.  It’s not as if driving on the motorways is fun in the slightest any more, so why not sit back and relax?  Cars could become completely different, resembling pods, without the need to seat occupants forwards and with all safety gubbins binned, because we’d never see an accident again.   Nor a speeding ticket.  Would we even need a licence?  Just imagine the efficiency gains…

Remove the sweaty emotional blob that is the human-being from the equation, and everything would be infinitely easier.  Future generations would laugh hysterically at the notion of us having had to sit at the wheel, concentrating and physically controlling a car for hours on end.  The thought of there ever having been even a slim chance of death on a journey would bewilder and shock them beyond comprehension.

Of course we’d all lament the death of the car as we know it, a machine to pilot and enjoy, but keep hold of the 205 GTI because the track-day industry would quite possibly explode.  To quote one of the chaps in our discussion, “maybe this is the golden age of motoring after all.”