I am really really enjoying the news coverage of the driverless cars at the moment.
At school I did history all the way through to A level. And even started a mixed degree in it – until I was drawn more to law … I digress … At school we had to spend a lot of time learning about the Industrial Revolution – how canals changed the world, then steam trains came along and stole the job of the canals, and then later the combustion engine would eventually steal the job of the railways. I appreciate this is a crude summary of the evolution of transport.
What I loved reading most were the news stories of the time – the danger that train travel imposed, and how travelling at speed could ‘endanger the human frame’. This fear continued, and was increased with, the advent of commercial cars. Some of the first speed limits introduced were 10mph.
I loved the idea of the transport pioneers being afraid to take their bodies beyond this speed for fear of permanent damage. This seemed ludicrous to a child of the 80s, who saw rockets going into space, the Grand Prix on television, and sat in the back of motor cars travelling totally legally at seven times the original limit. And often less legally at speeds over that. I really could not fathom how on earth my forefathers had been such transport scaredy cats.
As I read the current news articles and watch the news videos about the driverless cars – in particular the Google cars – I can hear the same historical fears being expressed in the comments and opinion. I really feel like I am living history. Each time a journalist asks ‘Is it safe?’ or ‘What laws do we have for this?’ or ‘How will pedestrians cope?’ I think to myself – surely we must have learned how to progress by now? We must have systems and policies in place for technological leaps. But apparently not. We have had driverless trains for AGES and we are all now at ease with the idea of the train on the track being controlled by a computer – BUT the idea of a car – well that has really put the wind up people.
But you know what – we have pushed the boundaries before and I am loving them being pushed again. And this time I get a front row seat. I want to ride in one of these driverless cars. I am going to push the limits of my human frame and I am going to enjoy the thrill of being a pioneer. We all get to live the history not just read about it.
Do we need driverless cars? Will they improve our lot and the lot of the planet? Will driverless cars change the world? Gosh I hope so – the traffic congestion is only getting worse. The planet is slowly but surely being choked. We need something to change.
Perhaps the driverless car holds the key. If we don’t try, we will never know.
Read the BBC article.