As we continue to digest the wonder that is the driverless electric car, the experts now bring us a “platoon” of electric taxis, moving together in such perfect harmony that they can all but eliminate wind resistance and cut vehicle emissions. It should be ready by 2030, though no one has considered why a platoon of taxis is much use to anyone. Still, the principle seems sound enough.
The odd thing, perhaps, about the driverless electric car – and indeed taxi cab – is why it has so far not colonised our roads.
Google and Apple are, it seems, trying to bring us the first electric driverless vehicle, taking their imperial ambitions into the territory traditionally occupied by Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen and so many other traditional makers – which are also pushing ahead with their own technologies. It’s all go.
The technology is already out there, or much of it, in the most mundane family transport. Satnav, once confined to a few high-end vehicles and an expensive option, now comes “as standard”, as the car folk say, in plenty of hatches.
Move a little further up the automotive food chain and you will find radar and adaptive cruise control. This means that your car can be left on a motorway, say, and will brake and accelerate its own way from A to B, within the speed limit.
All you need to do is to stay awake and steer. When you arrive at your destination, it will park itself. Blind-spot sensors are an especial help to protect cyclists. Linking all these systems is the way to create a driverless car. It needn’t be powered by electricity, but if it is, then it potentially adds huge environmental benefits.
Many of us cannot wait for the time when those unable to drive will be able to hop into such a car, punch in an address and let the car take the strain while we find better things to do.
Every citizen a driver; great idea, but how will we fit them on to our already crowded roads?