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Are Driverless Cars the Future?

Along with jet-packs, anti-gravity skateboards and time travel, a car which can drive itself sounds like just another fantasy from a future that most of us will never actually get to experience in our lifetime. But, with the formal announcement that Volvo plan to comprehensively trial their new ‘driverless’ vehicle technologies in the city of Gothenburg (not to be confused with Gotham City) in Sweden in 2017, the future feels like it might have finally arrived.

Although some of this new technology has already been tested in small-scale projects on the roads of London, this is the first large-scale pilot (or should we say pilotless?) scheme of its kind and will see one hundred driverless vehicles taking to the roads to blend in among the regular urban traffic. Volvo’s aim is to identify challenges the technology faces in real road conditions, to find out how other road users experience driverless vehicles and to identify any changes that would need to be made to the road infrastructure in order for these vehicles to become standardised for all drivers. Their vision, along with the Swedish government, is to achieve the admirable ideal of having zero fatalities caused by cars.

So how do these cars work? Well, although a driver will be able to reclaim control at any time, they will, at the simple push of a button, hand over the responsibility for getting from A to B to these new vehicles which will take control of all the necessary braking, speed, navigation and safety systems and what’s more, will be able to locate a car parking space and park themselves. Impressive.

However, not wanting to lag behind in the stakes of the driverless future, the UK’s Chancellor has this week released ‘the most forward-looking infrastructure pipeline [plan] to date.’ In the latest National Infrastructure Plan, a budget of £100bn (of a total £375bn) has been allocated for housing and transport, of which £10m is being offered as prize money to the British town or city that develops itself as ‘a testing ground for driverless cars.’

The international race to be the world leader in driverless vehicle technologies and transport networks is well and truly, on. But how do you feel about driverless driving? Will you trust the technology and welcome it as the next, natural phase in driving, or do you think it’s not to be trusted and would take the pleasure away from getting behind the wheel? Maybe you’d rather see those funds being redirected into jet-packs instead?! Feel free to use the comments box to share your views.

January 15, 2014