Is anyone else feeling a little uneasy about the inevitable scenario of us humans taking a backseat to cars that drive us? It seems that every week one of the big auto makers is unveiling their latest concept for driverless design, while Google, Tesla and Uber have been testing their self-driving vehicles on public roads for a while now (with human drivers present). While the basic technology isn't new - autonomous cars were successfully developed in the early 1980s - this is the first time we're facing a monumental, global shift in the way we drive. Potential benefits include a significant reduction in collisions, increased traffic flow, enhanced mobility for those facing challenges, and lower fuel consumption. If a self-driving system will actually reduce crashes and save lives, then of course that's a good thing. At times, I've wished I had Bionic Woman capabilities to run down reckless drivers that have whizzed down my street or through our neighbourhood school zones at ridiculously high speeds. And drunk driving becoming a thing of the past? Who could argue with that. But will one set of problems replace another? Malfunctions will occur, and as with our computers and mobile phones we'll be vulnerable to privacy and security issues. Will our roads wind up playing out like a high-tech version of Stephen Kings's murderous vintage car horror novel, Christine? Only time will tell. (I think I'm joking with that question although I'm not completely sure.)
For now, it's still us humans at the wheel and if you're not yet licensed, there's still time to learn with some driving lessons.
Here's a preview of what our sweet rides might look like in the not-too-distant future:
Yes, really. Rolls-Royce's first concept car design boasts a built-in "red carpet" and lighting system that announces its arrival to bystanders. As if they wouldn't notice anyway.
BMW is envisioning the future of driving as a shape-shifting autonomous car with artificial intelligence that can learn and predict a passenger's behaviour. Shape shifting, you ask? BMW is calling this 'Alive Geometry and it's 800 moving triangles set into the instrument panel and fitted to the side panels on the outside. They would move to allow the car to communicate with the rider. For example, they could open up to reveal red undersides when hazards present themselves on the road. A vivid imagination would help out here.
Renault's latest electric concept car with autonomous driving capabilities features a roof that "opens like the lid of a jewellery box", hopefully not while you're driving. Oh wait, it doesn't matter!
Need a low-tech palate cleanser after all of that? For last year's Milan Design Week, Toyota created a wooden concept car to combat the idea that "modern cars have to be high-tech machines packed with the latest technologies":
How do you feel about the prospect of a driverless future?
Images from Dezeen