Having spent the best part of 6 hours in the car this weekend visiting the in-laws it gave me time to think about the future of travel. Of course the ultimate answer has to be the ‘transporter’ enabling us to create some sort of worm hole so we can instantly move to wherever we like. That remains a complete fantasy however something which may have been fantasy a few years ago seems to be showing signs of promise and that is the driverless car.
Google is probably most famous for pioneering the development of driveless cars and their progress is quite amazing. See Sebastain Thrun’s TED talk for a ‘progress update’. I for one am totally blown away by what has already been achieved here and am very excited about it. It seems to suggest that reasonable within my lifetime this will be a reality.
What is interesting is Sebastain’s main selling point on it is safety and solving traffic issues. I have no doubt that safety will be improved as surely the vast majority of accidents are caused by user error but would I buy one of these cars for that reason? I doubt it. It will also be interesting to see what happens the first time a driveless car kills somebody. Whose fault is it? A legal nightmare.
I also have my doubts about the claim that it will solve traffic congestion issues. If this truly takes off the demand for cars will go even higher. In theory anybody could ‘drive’ so a child of 10 or a man of 90 who probably doesn’t have a licence at the moment can suddenly add to the traffic demand. Also I can’t see train travel surviving too well and cars will have little competition so it isn’t going to solve the congestion issue but will give a lot more people access to transport, which in theory is brilliant.
However the reason I am excited about it is rather than spend my 6 hours at the weekend pointing the car in the right direction I could have caught up on the news, had some diner, played some video games or even written this blog. My time could have been exponentially more productive and given my time is so precious this is the biggest win for me.
So when we will be able to get one? Your guess is as good as mine and whilst it seems the technology is getting to a stage where it is possible there are a whole heap of other factors to bear in mind before it hits our showrooms. Think about trains the technology must be there to have them autonomous yet we still have drivers. There is an interesting article in Forbes which discusses some of the key blockers we need to overcome.
Without doubt in mind though we will overcome these as the prospect of the driverless car is so amazing and it will change humankind in such a positive way. For now though I’m going to have to stick to the taxi home after a night out in the pub.