The approaching Extinction of the PetrolHead
I'm not talking about electric cars. I like the Tesla. I don't really 'get it' if I'm honest - buying a car without a petrol or diesel engine still sounds a bit like buying a Kit Kat without the biscuit in it, or a TV which can't be tuned to BBC One, or a laptop with no Caps Lock. Yeah, sure they'd work, but you'd always feel like an important component was missing.
I'm sure the Tesla P90D or whatever it's called is fantastic. It looks like a useful car, but also a very sterile car, almost soul-less? However, I don't object to electric cars. We can share the road with them, and apart from ploughing into us and dragging our crumpled bodies across the tarmac because we didn't hear them coming - there's not a lot to object to. Okay, there's the environmental disaster of mining and shipping Lithium all over the world, but... Okay, there's the nano flow cell, if the technology works we wouldn't NEED Lithium and the electric car WOULD make more sense. Plus it looks pretty tasty!
We have to face facts; like it or not, electric cars are here and they're here to stay. What I DO object to is driverless cars. Why? Can't they share the road with all the petrolheads and drivers of the world? Yes. At first they can. However it will be short lived.
The thing is. When driverless cars are introduced they will HAVE to share roads with the rest of us. However as their use increases, statistics will start to appear. There'll come a point where the US or British governments issues statistics which state that 50% of cars on the road are Driverless, but 90% of accidents are caused by human driven cars.
At this point, lobby groups will start to call for self-driven cars to be banned. 'They're dangerous!', 'Think how many lives can be saved if we remove them from the road.' You can imagine it happening. Non-driver types, people who see cars as an inconvenient mode of transport and choose them almost exclusively on the colour and the number of cupholders will rejoice! They won't have 19 year olds in tracksuits and baseball caps, driving their souped up Corsa's, cutting them up at the lights anymore. However driving as a pastime will be DEAD!
Look at them! Sitting all smug in their suits, watching the news while they cruise off to their business meeting. Happy and satisfied that they're safe - all traces of human error removed from the road. Their safety in the hands of 22nd century tech and a computer. You'll probably pick your destination with an app on your iPhone, the cars will communicate and ease traffic by organizing their routes cohesively.
However, YOUR safety will no longer be in your hands. Consider a scenario. Something has gone wrong and your car is going to slam, at full speed into a bus full of children. There's a split second to make the decision. If you hit the bus, you might survive, but there's a risk you'll harm several others. If you hit the reinforced concrete wall next to the bus, you'll definitely die, but you definitely won't take anyone with you. I don't know what the right decision to make in this scenario is. However I feel uncomfortable with the thought that my car will instantly weigh up the value of my life and decide to sacrifice me because of a statistical calculation...
Even beyond this, there's a fear of dumbing down of human intellect. We do everything with iPhone's and Android phones now. We have no idea how these things do what they do. The layers of technology are so many, so complicated and so nuanced, that all we know is 'some wizardry happens'. I think the technology revolution is robbing people of skills. People who trained for years to do something well, are being replaced by people who stand next to a machine and press a button.
And so it could go with driving. I grew up in the nineties. Getting your first car was a big part of growing up. Kangarooing down the road at the start of your first lesson, slowing everyone down and stalling at junctions.... That's dying now. Less youngsters are taking their test. Maybe because the test is getting harder, and maybe because traffic is getting heavier and insurance is getting more expensive. When I was 17 it was essential to drive. It was a rite of passage. Taking the controls of a car and experiencing the change from awkwardly operating mechanical controls, to feeling like a good car is an extension of yourself.... That could be gone forever soon.
Yes, driverless cars could make our roads safer. Country pubs might find they suddenly start making more profit. However, we'd lose something of ourselves, something of our culture. James May would have to get his chef's hat out again and do a cookery program. Hammond would have to go back to Total Wipeout and Clarkson, well he's got his newspaper column and I'm sure he could blag another war documentary or two... Life wouldn't be the same though.
The problem is, I don't think we can stop this. Driverless cars will come, they will be safe and they eventually be far safer than driven cars. So enjoy your driving while you can. You might not be able to in thirty years time.... :(