Two more stories on the driverless car suggest that we are moving very quickly towards a fundamental change in the way we get about. Google has already test-driven an adapted Toyota Prius on 100,000 miles of road in California, and several states have approved in advance the adoption of the new technology it promises.
Now Nissan has announced that it will deliver the first commercially viable ‘autonomous’ (driverless) car by 2020, and with more than one model. It delivered on its pledge to produce a zero-emission car within 3 years by producing the Nissan Leaf, so it has a good record on promises. It has dozens of research institutions on board helping it to develop the required technology.
Meanwhile Volvo has been testing a driverless car on UK roads around Westminster. I haven’t seen it yet, but this is where I work, so I might soon. It’s a specially adapted V60, and at the touch of two buttons the car takes over brakes, engine and steering, keeping it a safe distance from other vehicles. It uses a combination of radar and a camera to guide its automatic systems. The driver supervises and can take over at any time, but the autonomous car is clearly the way we are going. It works in the dark as well.
In the future the car will look nothing like today’s ones. Inside will be a table or desk where the traveller can work, and maybe a couch or a bed to sleep on. Commuting for an hour into cities for work will not be time wasted, but time available for work or leisure activities. People will simply enter their required destination and the car will do the rest. All of this will be happening at least a decade before HS2, our high speed train network, has consumed over £60bn of public funds in order to allow a small number of people to travel in a way that people will no longer want to.
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