“Can I give you a lift home in my driverless car?”
Just a few years ago, this would not be the kind of question you’d expect to be asked. Yet increasingly, it’s becoming an option that is seen as one of the future drivers of the motor industry, especially by the good folk at Google.
If you are still not sure of any serious intent, just consider their recent proposed development in self-driving – or if you prefer driverless – cars. This latest incarnation won’t even possess such obvious non-essentials as a steering wheel, accelerator pedal or brakes.
The real question, therefore, is how comfortable or confident would you be sitting in a box and being transported somewhere – as if by magic? While you have no direct control over what happens during a bus, train or airplane journey, you at least have the comfort of knowing that other skilled professionals do!
Part of you may well be thinking it would be great fun to give it a try. If so, you have probably already added the proviso of this being on a carefully-controlled test track and with a whole series of air bags included.
If any such offer involved the North Circular Road, Hanger Lane Gyratory System, and the words “morning rush hour” you might be less keen.
As with normal driving, it’s all about those other people on the road. We are all fairly reluctant to admit to being less than highly-skilled drivers, spending our time shouting at other people taking up the road. Therefore, even if you had confidence in the driverless vehicle that you are inside, isn’t it a gigantic leap of faith to accept that you would be protected from the careless actions of others – still using that outdated driving-it-myself system?
It is fair to say that some steps along the driverless route might be welcomed. A prime example is already happening with the emergence of AEB (Advanced – or Autonomous – Emergency Braking).
This system uses proximity sensors to detect situations where a collision with the vehicle in front is thought to be imminent. In such circumstances, emergency braking would then be applied to prevent, or at least lessen, any impact.
Another example is cameras that can help prevent crashes when reversing. These are small steps towards what Google, at least, believes could be the future.
So what do you think? Will the time ever come when drivers don’t need to be dedicated during a night out? Will route planning or sat-nav simply involve remembering to tell your vehicle where you are going? If so, are these vehicles really, in any true sense of the word, worth calling “cars”?
Finally, one thing’s for sure – Formula One will be even less interesting!