Thoughts about “Driving into the Future (With the Brakes On)”

In this morning’s Telegraph.co.uk there is a great column on the future of automobiles from Kevin McCullagh, Founder of Plan.  Titled “Driving into the Future (With the Brakes On)”, it is a better than average prognostication of what’s coming for the car.  At least to me.

Here are a few snippets, the first on Gen Y and cars:

What these plans don’t take into account is the aspirational desire for fast, cheap, convenient transport. It’s often said Generation Y has fallen out of love with car ownership – a perception that has pleased the planners and worried car companies. But while the recession and student debt may have delayed young peoples’ car-buying plans, all of our research confirms that the young still aspire to their own wheels – and the freedom and individuality a car still represents.

 

There is mention of a fascinating anecdote about Talinn, Estonia and an experiment with free public transportation.  The snippet is below, but here’s a link to a better story from Cityscope.org

When the Estonian capital of Tallinn recently became the largest city to give its residents free access to public transport, this European centre for nightlife – with a huge young population – saw only a 1pc rise in usage, mostly from walkers, not drivers, making the switch. Drivers are attached to the comfort and convenience of their transport, a fact planners often dismiss.

 

Innovation will happen more at individual level – vehicles and smartphones – rather than much more costly large-scale civic planning and infrastructure.

 

And there are thoughts on the future of the driverless car:

Two developments that will have an impact are driverless taxis and mobility apps for smartphones. Google has attracted a lot of attention with its self-driving car, but many other companies are just as advanced in their testing, with many of the latest road models already offering autonomous features such as adaptive cruise control and lane changing. While there are technical and legislative barriers to overcome, fully driverless cars are likely to be on the road in the next 10-15 years. Initially they will be expensive to own; more immediately, driverless taxis may be cheaper than minicabs, and more comfortable and sociable as seats can face each other, with no need for a driver’s seat.

 

This was such a great article, it moved me to leave a comment–something I don’t do very often, given the nature of comment areas.

 

Excellent article.  You have it spot-on with Gen Y, student debt, and postponing that first real car purchase.  I think that there is some pushback from those who try to point out electricity is made.  However I would guess that the louder voices either don’t have EVs, or have some emotional or financial link to an industry that prospers from their failure.

 

It will be interesting to see if Tesla’s coming Gigafactory can help drive battery production costs down to a point where we can see the equivalent of a Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris EV.  If Musk can pull that off, then he will be the new Henry Ford.

 

And the self-driving car?  I don’t see it as folly.  However it is something that everyone thinks is great, but no one wants to put their families into.  The testing we see is at closed tracks, parking lots and other places absent the randomness of the real world.  I know my daily commute.  There are idiots on that commute, which on some days includes me. In a self-driving car I cede the ability to control my fate at the hands of these people.  If there were a protected lane for self-driving cars to join up with, great. But what politician is going to sacrifice one of two lanes for self-driving cars?

 

Be sure to take a look at the video above.  It’s shot while driving a real Infinity Q50 using their available Active Lane Control feature.  This is pretty doggone close to a real-world application of a driverless car.  Literally.  I’m not sure where or what time of day (rush hour, Sunday afternoon, etc) this was shot.  But I see opportunities for idiots to put me in dangerous situations where I’m betting my family’s life on a computer.  You may see something else.

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Sebastian James

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