Microprocessors installed in cars will be able to prevent accidents by advising drivers about road conditions and warning of approaching dangers. More alarmingly, they would act as a policeman by keeping a record of the driver's actions and even fining or, in serious cases, imprisoning them in their car.
A leading transport expert, Professor Chris Wright, of Middlesex University Business School, will today warn that inventors must take huge leaps forward in technology to keep up with the growing number of vehicles on Britain's roads.
"Looking ahead in the longer term, one can foresee some quite startling changes. In principle, microprocessor devices with built-in intelligence might be used to mediate the role of the driver in some quite radical ways," he said.
The device would record all the driver's actions onto a "black box" in the car. It would also advise the driver what to do as events unfolded on the road.
Professor Wright, who outlines his views in a public lecture at Gresham College in the City of London today, said this development was many years away, as the device would have to be able to process the image, interpret the road situation, make a judgement and inform the driver at a speed to keep up with the movement of the traffic.
But he added: "In some cases merely telling the driver what to do will not be enough, and explicit disincentives will be desirable.
"Fines could be deducted instantaneously from a running display of the driver's bank balance and, in severe cases of speeding, the car could be immobilised, with the driver clamped mechanically into the driving seat and all lights flashing to attract police attention."Reuse content