Ain’t the twenty-first century just so exciting eh? You know, long before we arrived here we’d already bestrode the moon, conquered the mountains and the oceans, invented the wheel, the computer, and discovered many of the laws of science. In the not too distant future man will surely dine on Mars ….. no, not the chocolate bar! And yet…. all that the world’s greatest designer minds can come with in relation to the aesthetic of a driverless car is something which resembles one of those vehicles for which you can claim a mobility grant from the social! And to add insult to designer cruelty the cars themselves will prove to be slower than a Scotsman getting a round in!
In a few years from now the combustion engine will be rarer than permanent employment in the White House! In fact the motoring future is distinctly dark, it isn’t fast, there’ll be no sleek lines or roars from twin overhead cams, and the heady days of posing in three litre, V12 ford escort convertible on Southend sea front will be nothing but a distant memory. In its stead will arrive an entire nation of Sunday drivers! We all know the phrase, and we all know what these bastards look … sorry, drive like, and coming across one of them brings out deep seated homicidal tendencies. But unfortunately people, this is the logical consequence driver-less cars. Progress? You’re ‘avin a larf?
But wait, it gets worse. Because they’ll be no more iconic motoring shows! ‘Top Gear’ will become ‘Gardening Gear’, ‘Petrol Heads’ will morph into ‘Battery Leads’ and ‘Drives with my Car’ will in future be entitled ‘London to Glasgow in under a month!’
It was only a matter of time to be fair. My wife has never been so happy as when she heard the news that driver-less cars will have slowly accelerated towards us all by 2030. This means only twelve more years of collecting yours truly from the pub on a Friday … and Saturday … maybe the odd Sunday lunchtime, before she can have a glass a wine herself before midnight.
Now, as much as I’d like to write about my recent white-knuckle ‘Oh there’s no driver!’ ride I had in a prototype car. I have to report that nothing could be further from the truth. It was agonisingly slow. It was cautious, safe and a more attentive driver than any human could possibly ever be. It trundled through the streets being ridiculously patient with traffic, never cutting anyone up or dangerously switching lanes at the last moment. It didn’t once cut corners, or do that tiny burst of speed to nip through the green lights as they turn red. Sorry but we’re all doomed to Sunday driver hell … every fucking day of the week!
And so all law-breaking fun will disappear overnight because these autonomous snails will be incapable of tailgating, brake-checking or acting the bollocks. Only in our dreams will we ever brake speed limits, and speeding cameras will soon pop up on the Antiques Roadshow! And why we’re at it forget about bleedin sat nav, who gets to guide the car’s moral compass eh? Answer me that one. Does the car hit the child to ensure the safety of the middle-aged ‘driver’, or does it swerve out the way and kill the driver who was probably only going to live another few years anyway? Will our cars be utilitarian or libertarian? It might sound like a silly point right now, but these are inescapable questions that won’t have straightforward answers. The insurance companies are crapping themselves because all it will take is that first accident before the ‘driverless car kills humans’ headlines are splashed across the front pages and the brake lights come on. Just imagine the legal mess when your driverless car hits another, let alone a person. Which insurance company in its right mind is going to cover these things when they first hit the road, without demanding a fortune? And who’s gonna be to blame when the inevitable does happen?
I love driving. There are few things better than hitting an open road in the summer with Led Zeppelin blaring through the speakers. Letting someone else do it for me will just won’t be the same, regardless of how safe it is. But in the driverless world we will all become passive and disengaged; the car will be reduced to a commodity, a mere tool for mobility. And where’s the fucking fun in that eh?
3rd September 2017