Technology in the driver seat

Watching the progress of the building of the Express Way my thoughts went on to the recent acquisition by the traffic boys of all their new radar toys at more millions, all to keep us within the rules of the road.

At the same time the work on driverless cars proceeds at a rapid pace and of course they are pre-programmed to keep to the rules saving us the trouble, and for all we know such cars may already being tested here.



You have  seen pictures of the small Google cars and the Volvo ditto, also Audi and Toyota are working hard on their versions. The latest to join the fray is Tesla with their all electric model S of which some 55000 units have had their software updated enabling them to manage driverless highway driving.


You can see where this is going, the technology will in a few years

have turned the motor industry upside down, and the domino effect on petrol stations, insurance market, taxi industry, and your trip to the supermarket, not forgetting what it might do to your investments in various industries will be felt throughout society because of our dependance on transport.

Potentially it really is an enormous change,

not unlike the change  to industrial landscape with the introduction of the steam engine back in the early 1800s.

Now imagine for a moment you hop in to your car to go to that course at Kapiti SeniorNet and notice your petrol is low. No worries for thanks to the technology you alight from your car and ask it to go to petrol station to fill up, then come back and park to await you.


That does not give the petrol station much chance of selling you a hot pie or a cup of coffee whilst they fill your car, and as your car in this instance may be a hybrid you are unlikely to visit often anyway.

The result of this kind of loss of business will see the grouping of similar businesses in large clusters away from central areas including supermarkets and enormous semi automated warehouses. So in the lunchbreak you go online to order what you need and pay. With your smartphone and new app you order the car to collect your order at an agreed time. I should mention that apart from the driverless car all the other ingredients are already there.

At the Carnegie Melon University some 40 researchers are working hard at making the driverless car a reality. Not so good news for the taxi industry already shaken by the appearance of Uber which is already worth US$40 billion, and bearing in mind that it is the cost of the chauffeur that is the most expensive part of their business it makes sense to eliminate that expense. So you can call a driverless taxi or Uber car if you so wish.

Chances are you will get rid of your own car and subscribe to one of several plans that suits your needs that will make it cheaper for you to use Uber e.g. than buying and maintaining your own car.

It will be interesting to see how the Insurance companies will tackle this. If you already have good discount for being a sensible driver it will count for nothing when the driver is a computer system, but probably a relief for the driver with a terrible record. In case of an accident does the young and inexperienced versus the experienced with a solid driving record have any meaning, or is it the owners who should be insured.

Or is it the owner of the Uber car that you have subscription use of, or the makers of the car, or of the software, or the developers like Google or Apple?

More obvious advantages of the driverless age is that we wont have to worry about finding parking in cities, with fewer personally owned cars which can be parked outside cities in designated places, there will less need for parking houses, mind you less need for car dealer yards as well, and roadworks will be reduced because driverless cars are much lighter so less wear and tear than before, with substantial savings in road upkeep.

It could be a quieter neighbourhood with electric cars and quite a bit safer for pedestrians and one imagines likewise for cyclists since the new cars have such safety sensors built in.

But it will see-in a new age and yet another technology change to our daily lives with consequences for many industries as well.

Are you ready?