Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The future of road transport?

Got distracted during a presentation yesterday when a speaker referred to the concept of ‘driverless cars’.

A great idea, isn’t it? Imagine – the car knows the way, it knows the speed limits, it knows when it can cross an intersection safely and when it can’t, without even traffic lights to tell it. Basically, it cuts out the whole human error bit, doesn’t it?

Well, all the human error bit except for the part that goes into the software design. Personally I want my first driverless car to use an Apple operating system. I don’t fancy the car informing me that ‘an unexpected error has occurred in the car driving system’. Presumably the only satisfaction I would get, while hanging from the seatbelts, upside down in a ditch, would be the opportunity to answer the question ‘report error, y/n?’

Still, I suppose that’s no worse than the errors we get these days in the human-driver-based configuration (as I suppose we’ll have to learn to refer to it). And at least it’s a lot better to go to that far-off meeting as a passenger than having to concentrate on the road and fight the growing tiredness.

But then I thought: from driverless why can’t we move to passengerless cars? Not only would I not have to drive to Birmingham for that tedious meeting, not only would I let the car do the driving, I wouldn’t even go myself. I’d let the car go on its own.

Of course, that leads to a problem when it comes to actually holding the meeting. But that’s not a hard one to solve. There are phones. There are Video Conferencing systems. Why, there’s even Skype.

Driverless car: inspire confidence?
Perhaps you might prefer passengerless too
And then I got to thinking some more. We made the car driverless. Then we made the car passengerless. Why not go the extra mile and make the car carless? We don’t send anything to Birmingham at all. Not the driver. Not the passenger. Not the car. 

Think of the fuel we’d save. Think of the accidents we’d avoid. Think of the time we could use for other things.

You know, I believe there may be real mileage to this idea. I wonder who I can suggest it to?


Mark Reynolds said...

I'm glad you stopped when you did. I was afraid the next step would be to get rid of Birmingham entirely.

David Beeson said...

Always a good idea to stop before Birmingham. On the other hand, your thinking isn't without merit.