Thursday, 4 October 2012

Deus Ex Machina - the driverless car

Is the driverless car the Deus Ex Machina which is lowered onto the stage to solve the mounting problem of road traffic accidents, too many cars, too many people a human race that's done too much, much too young ...or is it just another accident waiting to happen in the world of driving?  

Quietly - not with a bang but a whimper - the world moved one step further along the road to the future as the governor of California signed a bill last week which will allow 'self-guiding' cars on the roads of California from 2015.  That's only  three years time - yes it is really going to happen, the Total Recall Johnny Cab will soon be crossing the Rubicon and arriving in a town near you...

A driverless speed trial - no wait...

Bumper cars

The governor signed the bill at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, probably the obvious choice as Google, always driving forward with an eye to the future, has been at the cutting edge of driverless vehicle technology. To date hybrid Toyota Prius prototype autonomous vehicles, adapted to be 'self-guiding' by Google's engineers, have clocked up 300,000 miles out and about on the roads of California, with still only one recorded accident and that was caused by a human driver running into one - doh! We fallible old humans don't do ourselves any favours.

Road safety? - Google it


Google's co-founder Sergey Brin believes that 'autonomous' cars will be much safer and will go some of the way to preventing the 40,000 US road traffic accidents which occur every year - mostly caused by driver error.

Google also claims that driverless cars are more efficient at parking and manoeuvring, so will take up less road and parking space - quite a consideration on our small and overcrowded planet.

Have a nice day

State your destination, have a nice day
How this new technology will affect jobs though, is yet to be seen - up to date driving has been a reactive mental and physical process which only humans have been capable of but now, yet again, we are being superceded by machines who are apparently better at it than we are.  This leads to the inevitable conclusion that driving jobs for people will disappear, as slowly but surely, the Johnny Cab takes over.

Won't go down to Highway 51 no more...

Historically the romance of driving has captured our hearts and given us freedom - particularly along the wide open spaces of the US. Roads like Route 66 and Highway 51 have entered the world's consciousness and gained celebrity via books and songs. Well apparently, hard though it is to believe, driving is declining in popularity in the industrialised world and we are driving less and less each year, perhaps due to roads clogging-up, cameras popping-up like poppies in a cornfield and petrol prices soaring. Perhaps driving just doesn't have the appeal it used to have.

Self-guiding motorcycle?

So what do you think? Is this just a fast forward into the Wal-E world where we float about helplessly being serviced by machines as the robo-pilot guides us along, or a brilliant technical advance which will benefit us all? And how will this technology affect motorcyclists? Will it mean that they will be safer as robocar is programmed to avoid other road users, or in more danger through not having a driver to react to anything unexpected on the road?  Could there ever be a motorcycle auto pilot so that you could just sit on your bike with your feet up on the handlebars eating a saveloy while your bike filters you through the massive Toyota Prius driverless traffic jam - mmm has some appeal...

Driverless bike? - oh hold on - driver's just getting chips

Lets us know what you think, is this something which you welcome or the stuff of your nightmares? Leave us a comment with your thoughts and you have a nice day!

 ...and in true Blue Peter style - here's one we made earlier...

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