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The driverless car is going to change the way we travel much sooner than many people suppose

driverless-carTwo 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.


2 Responses

  1. I heard one of the Eagle sisters defending HS2 (the shadow transport one). She argued that demand was increasing (and seemed to assume it would for ever more, in a linear direction). Therefore something must be done. HS2 is something, we must therefore do it.

    Seriously, that was it!

    Like you, I rather think the driverless car makes HS2 look rather absurd.

  2. Personally, I would feel very uncomfortable being driven under the control of any computer. This laptop can have a mind of it’s own at the most inconvenient times but I can just switch the damn thing off and curse at it. The prospect of whistling along at 70 mph down the M1 with a bundle of integrated circuits working out the next millisecond manoeuvre has set my heart fluttering. Flying an aircraft on auto pilot is far more sophisticated or is there much less to collide with at 30,000 feet ? Incidentally, I agree with your opinion on HS2. It will probably cost the population £100 billion before it’s completed and less than 1% will ever use it.

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