When driverless cars are a thing


  • Living
  • Sunday, 11 Dec 2016

It won't be long before the whole idea of driving is an antiquated activity. Photo: Shutterstock

Sometimes technology moves too fast to believe. That’s how I felt about Wi-Fi, smartphones and Netflix – advances in tech that changed the way we lived and were adopted into everyday life so fast that it’s hard to believe 10 years before each of them, the world was functioning largely without them.

In an attempt to predict the future, I’m going to say that driverless cars are the next tech innovation that will become so integrated into our lives that we won’t even remember what life was like before them. Which would mean an end to a large and mostly tedious portion of many people’s lives, especially if they live in Kuala Lumpur – because it would mean an end to driving.

And I for one won’t miss that at all.

Driving, cruising down a long winding road, wind in your hair, engine roaring beneath you as the scenery blurs by while Sabotage by the Beastie Boys blares on your radio. Yeah, driving. I hate it. Mostly because this idealised vision of driving is not what many – and not what I – associate with actual driving.

I grew up in Toronto, in Canada. A North American city that ranks only behind Los Angeles and New York for worst traffic on the continent – a continent where everyone and their dog owns a car. To drive there is to sit on a spot of highway, watching the fumes pour out of the vehicles around you, as the radio informs you there is an accident even further ahead and traffic will get worse, while you watch your valuable time ticking away into oblivion.

And yes, I’ve sat in Kuala Lumpur traffic, and guess what? It reminds of me of my days in the 6ix (a fun nickname that Drake coined for Toronto). So yes, Malaysia, we know each other’s pain too well.

In a week in which Apple announced it was getting into driverless cars, the first driverless buses were put into service on a small stretch of road in France, and Airbus is apparently working on flying, driverless taxis – that not even Uber can fight, unless they build flying driverless taxis of their own, which is a thing that Uber can totally do – everything is pointing to the fact that driverless transport is coming. Sooner rather than later. And our pain of enduring traffic jams will soon be a thing of the past.

Would this be how a flying driverless taxi would look like?
Would this be how a flying driverless taxi would look like?

I can’t wait for the day.

In a world with driverless cars, accidents could be reduced to almost nil, because, let’s face it, people are crappy drivers. Taking them out of the equation makes driving a lot safer. And traffic jams could also be a thing of the past.

Traffic studies have shown that traffic slow-downs, especially on expressways, are caused by merging vehicles and vehicles accelerating and braking. If all the cars are driverless that means they should be communicating with one another and maintaining a constant speed chosen for efficiency. No more traffic jams? Sign me up.

And then think about how the design of cars will change.

Instead of the steering wheel and two rows of seats facing forward, how about a circular design with an entertainment system in the centre, a place to plug in your PC so you can get started on work or just enjoy binge watching whatever it is you binge watch nowadays. Vehicle interiors of driverless cars will not resemble the car interiors we’re so painfully acquainted with right now.

How much will productivity and leisure increase, when the two hours people are locked into commuting every day suddenly becomes free time? How much better will those commutes become?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know some people out there are going to say “But what about driving? It’s so great to toss your hair in the wind, step on the gas pedal, and feel all that power at your command, and then members of the opposite sex swoon.” Whatever.

I’m sure there will be driving parks, much like parks in which people go horseback riding for fun now, where you can go and feel like an alpha, beat your chest and roar about how well you three-point turned back there. Great. Pat on the back.

But the rest of the world will move on to safer transport that frees us from our commutes, and when it does, it won’t be long before the whole idea of driving is as antiquated and forgotten as not being able to check the Internet, or watch movies on a laptop, or having a phone that is just used as a phone.

And I can’t wait.


Catch Jason Godfrey on Inspiring Homes on Life Inspired (Astro CH 728).

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