7 April 2016

Motoring’s future – awesome, awful or a bit of both?

Car technology is racing ahead at such a speed, with exciting new announcements made by automotive firms almost every week. Pushing gadgets and entertainment to one side for a moment, the hottest topics in the motoring world are electric and driverless vehicles.

Google, Audi, Mercedes, Volvo, Renault-Nissan, Ford and other companies have already built cars that can drive themselves, whilst Tesla has proved that it’s possible to produce electric cars with long ranges, as well as real-life ‘radio-controlled’ cars that can be summoned and manoeuvred using an app.

future motoring - Audi


In the UK, London’s lovable, messy-haired Mayor, Boris Johnson, is keen to show the city off as a green-thinking capital that embraces electric, emissions-free cars, whilst other politicians are getting very excited about autonomous vehicles. Convoys of upto ten computer-controlled lorries will be tested on the M6 motorway in Cumbria in the near future, the aim being to ultimately make deliveries more efficient, which will result in cheaper prices on shelves. Government spokespeople have also revealed plans to add wireless charging to roads, a bit like a Scalextric track but without the visible groove, making ‘range anxiety’ a worry of the past.

Once the Highway Code and other laws have been updated, important roads have been modified to accommodate driverless vehicles, the insurance industry has come to an agreement on liability or ‘blame’ surrounding autonomous vehicles, and other challenges have been overcome, it’s probable that taxi firms like Uber, along with delivery vans and trucks, will be the first robotic vehicles to take to UK roads.

future motoring - easier parking


When driverless cars are finally accessible by the public at affordable prices and challenges such as hacking, human-to-robot interaction and potential malfunctions have been overcome, will motoring be awesome, awful or a bit of both, from the perspective of young drivers?

Really cool concepts that aren’t far off being possible:

  • Driving lessons and tests may become a thing of the past, or at the very least, much easier
  • Travelling by road will be much safer, all vehicles communicating with each other and travelling in carefully controlled ‘trains’
  • More efficient cars mean cheaper transportation, speed limits perhaps increased due to safety improvements
  • Late for college, uni, work or anywhere else? No problem, just get ready in the car on the way
  • Forgotten to finish some coursework or produce a document for work? Do it in the car
  • Can’t be bothered going to collect your takeaway? Program your car to go and pick it up for you
  • Had a couple of drinks so you’re unable to drive home? An autonomous car can take you home
  • The last empty car park space is too tight? Get out and let the car park itself using lasers
  • Parked at the far end of the car park and it’s raining? Summon a car to come and meet you at the entrance
  • Can’t stand changing gear and concentrating on the daily commute? Just sit back and relax
  • Older people and others who don’t have a driving licence will be able to get around more freely.
future motoring - leisure time


Not-so-cool aspects of autonomous cars:

  • It’s expected that many people won’t ‘own’ cars when they all become autonomous, and will just hire or summon one when required. Say goodbye to giving your car a name and forming a bond with it
  • Unless driverless cars are fitted with switchable manual controls, people who love driving and see it as a way of relaxing or having fun will be gutted. No more random weekend drives, just for fun
  • In the shorter term, taxi and delivery drivers may lose their jobs, replaced by robotic cars. Longer term, talking 30+ years or more away, petrol stations may also be a thing of the past, along with other vehicle-related jobs
  • Criminals may be able to use autonomous cars for their own harmful means, from driverless getaway cars to hands-free weapon use
  • The reduced cost of moving people around may lead to more housing development in currently rural areas
  • Driverless cars themselves will require more power and energy than the average cars of today, so the whole energy problem may come back like a boomerang.

Are you looking forward to driverless vehicles gradually becoming the norm, would you prefer all vehicles to be switchable between autopilot and human driving, or do you wish the whole thing would go away? Tell us on Twitter or Facebook.

Oliver Hammond

Written by Oliver Hammond

Oliver is an established freelance motoring writer, published journalist and automotive copywriter based in Manchester. He regularly reviews cars and covers events and launches as editor of petroleumvitae.com and his articles appear in various magazines each month. No relation to Richard from Top Gear, he’s got a weakness for luxo-barges, proper 4x4s and oddball cars.