Driverless, or autonomous cars, are coming whether we like it or not. Google have prototypes on the road and Tesla already offer partially autonomous vehicles for sale. Apple are rumoured to be spending some of their enormous wealth on the development of the “i-wheel” (?).
Many think they are a disaster in waiting and I’m sure there will be hiccups (we all have bumps, don’t we?) but I can’t wait. I believe they really are the future and the lumbering, smoky dinosaurs we drive now will slowly be consigned to the scrapheap.
Imagine jumping in a car and instead of having to spend so much time steering, stopping, waiting, concentrating and (if you’re like me!) shouting, you could simply let the car take you to your destination whilst you get on with your day. Maybe start work early, update your facebook, do the online shopping or even just have a nap.
Once the old school car-o-saurus is extinct there will be no more traffic jams or traffic fines, no more driving tests or points on your licence (no more driving licences!).
How will it work? I believe we will move away from vehicle ownership. Car rental will be the norm and there will be autonomous vehicles parked on every street. We will join car rental clubs and our smart phones will allow us to enter and travel in the cars to our destination and leave the car there. When we want to return we will find another car and go home. Our bank accounts or credit cards will be charged by the amount of time travelled.
The autonomous car will know where there are too many cars in one area and not enough in another and automatically move to an area of high demand. If there are no cars in your area, you will simply request one and it will appear.
Cars will be electric. Even if battery technology does not improve in the future, range will no longer be a problem. When the car you are travelling in becomes low on charge, it will “find” another vehicle that is fully charged and unused. It will park close by and you will simply swap cars. The original vehicle will then charge its batteries in the automatic charging facilities in each parking bay and be ready for the next customer.
To ensure the autonomous cars remain clean, there will be a feedback and rating system which the hirer will complete when they get in the car. Poor feedback will be directly related to the previous hirer who will be invoiced for cleaning. In time, members of the club will want to protect their feedback as they do with ebay. Standards will improve and remain high. Members who constantly receive poor feedback will have their membership suspended or cancelled.
The fossil fuel vehicle as we know it will be consigned to race tracks, collectors or hobbyists.
So when will this happen? Partially autonomous vehicles are available right now (Tesla). I expect the fully autonomous car will be available for general use within 3 to 5 years. Within 25 years the current car-o-saurus will begin to die off and within another 10 years virtually extinct.
I can’t wait!
Blog by Jeremy Harris.