Matt Prior: The age of the perfect car is near
Car makers are tantalisingly close to perfecting their art
Safety, emissions and self-driving technologies mean even the most ardent car critic will soon have little to complain about
After a century and a quarter of gestation, the car has finally cracked it. Yes, there are things to be a bit gloomy about if you’re utterly committed to driving a really noisy, smelly vehicle as fast as you darned well like. But in the normal world, the car has finally won out.
Every obstacle and every complaint made about it is set to be removed or overcome, and the machine that changed the world is about to morph into something the world finally accepts.
I don’t think you’d find many people who deny that cars have brought untold freedoms but, as they’ve said at considerable length over the years, cars are dirty, noisy, dangerous and elitist. In their ways, all true, but because cars have let us go where we wanted, when we wanted, we’ve put up with it. Every single one of us has used the car.
And soon we’ll be able to do it with less guilt: in future, your cars will make no sound and emit no gases or particles and their energy will (should/can) be produced renewably. Sensors and limiters will avoid accidents and prevent antisocial use. And although cars have been cheaper than public transport for years in most places, they’ll get cheaper still, and as they become more readily shared, reducing their footprint in towns, they’ll become even more democratic and less invasive.
And the last, less-spoken obstacle? That they take your time and that, to date, you haven’t been able to drive and do something else simultaneously? Look, cars might never drive themselves absolutely everywhere in every condition, but they’ll be closer than any other form of transport. After all, what is a geofenced highway, on which cars seamlessly tail each other autonomously at speeds, if not a more practical, more efficient and more flexible mass transit system, with the advantage that the vehicle happens to go from exactly where you are, to where you want to go, at the precise moment you want to?
Since the invention of the car, there has never been a more disruptive time in the business than right now. But as we start to begin to see some consensus across the industry, coupled with the direction legislation is clearly taking, the future is starting to become clear, and the outcome is one where cars are clean, safe, efficient, quiet, fast and attainable. If you have hitherto had a problem with the car, over the next two decades it’ll solve it.
The car came, it saw, it conquered, and now it is looking to benignly settle in its empire, a position from where I can’t see it being moved. What alternative is better? Scooters and bikes and horses are slower, trains and buses only go on set routes and, while I’m not against the principle of affordable, personal, droney three-dimensional travel, the potential for uncontrolled descent through the z-axis is, like the incessant buzzing noise, a prospect that I suspect will keep it from catching on. Especially when a car of the near future, driving on a road network optimised for it, will frankly do pretty much all you’ll ever need.
What more, in fact, could you want? Apart from, obviously, a really noisy, smelly vehicle you can drive as fast as you like.
Source: Autocar Online