Sunday, 24 April 2016

I predict flying cars

I was trying to explain something to the kids the other day, something sufficiently advanced as to be indistinguishable from magic to me growing up, but antediluvian to them.  I think it may have been Video+ codes.

This got me thinking: what is there in the world today that is commonplace, but to their children will be utterly alien?

And then it came to me.  Cars.

Not cars, per se.  But car ownership.

Think about it.  Uber delivers us a taxi at the tap of a screen.  And driverless technology will give us in, say, five years time, cars whizzing about on the road with nobody in as a common sight.  Combine the two.  Rather than own a car, when I want one, in future I'll tap a screen and a car will appear, purring, outside my door at a preset time.

And, when I don't want one, it'll drive itself away.  Even when I keep it in the medium term it may well drive itself away to park.  Possibly in a designated multi-storey, impossibly close to its neighbours, as it recharges through wireless charging, the whole shoal shifting like a child's puzzle as cars move in perfect collaboration to let others in and out.

When I grew up we had coal bunkers.  You had to store all your power for heating on site and then use it, bit by bit.  Nowadays gas comes through pipes as and when I need it.  I don't have a gas holder on site.  One less hassle.  It'll be the same with cars with two decades; personal transport on demand and just-in-time.

I predict that in ten, fifteen years time that will be the model for personal transport.  It's there when you need it, not when don't.  And the other big change is that there'll be no storage issue, at least not on-site.  Fewer cars parked on the street, fewer garages (and more garages converted as granny annexes for our ageing population - a win-win there).  All this will be swapped for high-density parking facilities without the need for lights on room to open doors.  (Pity the mechanic that has to deal with a breakdown in the midst of that).

I'm quite confident that the car we currently own may not be our last, but may be one of the last - we may have two or three more.  And, perhaps, the kids may own some clapped out runabout.

What I'm less sure about is the transition from here to there.  We'll have a glut of non-driverless cars on our hands as we move from one technological paradigm to the next.  You can't give VHS tapes away nowadays; even charity shops refuse to take them.  Will it be the same with non-driverless technology? Or will they be retrofitted?

Or - and this is my favourite scenario - will we all be buying robot drivers, encapsulating the driverless technology and interfacing with the car, turning the wheel and pressing the peddles.  Will we, psychology insist on it looking human?  Will I be able to put a chauffeurs cap on mine?

I predict flying cars.  Not flying per se, but flying to me when I want it.

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