We have already seen the remarkable stride forward in driver-less vehicles with the invention of the iconic Google driver-less car, so we can all pretty much expect to see our roads transformed over the next 50 years where driver-less technology will probably take over city taxi services. We already have driver-less trains in some part of the world, and plans are going ahead to have these on the underground in London very soon, so it will only be a matter of time before it will be commonplace on our roads too.
With the growth in popularity of electric cars and the improvements in battery storage, we can predict that automating some driving tasks, such as short journeys around a set route within a city, then re-charging back at a central base, could become a possibility sooner than we think. So what does this mean to the many thousands of disabled and elderly mobility scooter users of the future? Will they no longer need to steer their own mobility scooters, or will there be no need for scooters at all if we become a nation of passengers in driver-less cars?
The freedom that a driver-less car would give to any individual is fantastic. Not having to drive a vehicle yourself, or having the need to rely on a human driver to get you from A to B will very freeing for a lot of people. This could mean an end to parking problems for drivers needing to leave their cars while they work, shop or visit places. If roads were networked with driver-less vehicles, it could be as simple as hopping into a vacant car sitting at a taxi-rank, or we may even have the capability to hail an empty car down on the street as we do now with human drivers.
We may well be able to use an app on our phones to summon a car to come directly to our home to pick us up at a time that is convenient to us. This would be an ideal solution for disabled people who still want the freedom to come and go as they please without having to rely on anyone else, or for the elderly who find it a struggle to drive by themselves any more.
Upon arrival at your chosen destination, you could simply leave the vehicle allowing it to return to base, or to be sent to pick up another customer. One would assume that driver-less vehicle manufacturers would have a range of specially adapted cars suitable for use by disabled passengers, or those with limited mobility. It would certainly be a convenient way of travelling around a city, and may even be more cost-effective to passengers because they wouldn’t need to have paid for their own cars only to have them sitting idle at home or work for hours a day. It may even make city streets less congested because there could be less cars on the road as a result.
The introduction of driver-less technology may also mean that our streets become safer. Automating journeys will take away human error, so the risk of accidents caused by drunk drivers, those under the influence of drugs, and over-tired drivers will be totally eliminated. Speed limits will be adhered to because there will be no option to speed, and the ‘boy-racer’ mentality could become a thing of the past.
The costs per journey would be purely based on distance travelled, and as everyone would presumably pay the same going rate, there shouldn’t be a need for different levels of fares like we see on the trains of today for example. There may well still be the option to drive, and there will always be people who prefer to drive simply for the pleasure of it. Plus of course it would be impractical for motorbikes to be driver-less. However, if car insurance premiums were to rise to high levels because driving would be seen as the more risky option, then this could encourage even more people to give up driving in favour of the driver-less option.
The next 50 years is going to be an interesting time for motorist, and while we can see urban cities and large towns benefiting from driver-less technology years before smaller towns and villages in the countryside, one would imagine that eventually all UK roads would become adaptable for use by driver-less cars.