This month we Test Drove four cars; the BMW 225Xe, MINI Countryman Plug-in Hybrid, Honda Civic RS and Range Rover Velar. Of these, the BMW and the MINI are hybrids. We find that more and more, we are testing Hybrids and indeed Electric cars, and in the near future their prevalence will be even greater. Come to think of it, the world is at a major cross-road – not merely in terms of the type of fuel that we will be using in the future for our cars; but also the mobility of people in general. And its not just the mobility of people that will be affected, but the way we live, work and play will all be different!
Just take the following scenario related to mobility. A family of four needs to go to a relative’s wedding. They get dressed and call for a car (on a phone app) for four. The car arrives within ten minutes of the request. The family gets in and is driven in complete privacy because there is no driver! In fact the seats can be rotated to face whichever direction that you need; and locked in place. Basically you can sit and have a conversation facing each other much like the living room of your home – while you silently travel to your destination. Oh, and if you need to stop to pick up another friend on the way, you will just merely talk to the car and give new directions where to go. No ifs, no buts, no traffic jams, no delays, no horning… science fiction? No. All these technologies are already here with us. It is just a matter of time!
Driverless cars are being tested already. And the only difficulty for them at the moment (if at all) is the fact that most vehicles on the roads are still being “driven” by drivers. Just imagine if ALL vehicles on the road are driverless – they (the vehicles) will communicate with each other, and as a result nothing will be left to chance. In fact such programmed cars will NEVER break the law, because it is not in their programme to break the law! They will never have to even overtake another vehicle because all vehicles will travel at the same speed leaving a regulated gap between themselves. When a vehicle gets to its destination and is about to stop, it will communicate the fact to other vehicles in the vicinity and every vehicle will know what the other vehicle is going to do well in advance.
So when will all this happen? Most car makers are predicting the introduction of self-driving cars by 2020. That’s less than three years away! Expert members of the US Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) have determined that driverless vehicles will be the most viable form of intelligent transportation. They estimate that up to 75% of all vehicles will be autonomous by 2040. So there!
In reality though technology has been developing faster than human predictions. So in our lifetime there are major changes in the offing. Watch this space!