A travel revolution?

I look forward to the day when I can buy a car which allows me to programme my destination and let the car drive me there.

The big travel difference between the rich and the rest of us is the rich can afford chauffeurs to drive their cars where and when they wish, freeing them to work, talk or picnic as they travel around from appointment to appointment. If they want to have wine with a meal or beer in the pub, they can do so and be driven home safely. If  they want to crowd another appointment into the day, they can do so and take a  nap in the back of the car on the way. They have greater freedom from their extra cash.

We are close to the point where technology can create automatic chauffeurs for the many. If you go from the Business car park at Terminal 5 to the airport, you go in your own automatically controlled pod vehicle. That requires tracks. Soon the technology with sat navs and satellite controls will allow similar treatment for a vehicle using the normal highway.

It is difficult to see how last century train technology can compete with this likely development. The controlled vehicle can go door to door at times convenient to the user. Satellite technology can also find the least congested route, and keep the vehicle away from traffic hotspots. We could get better use out of our roads, as the vehicle could advise on likely times for the journey to minimise travel time.

Bring it on. This would be the kind of development the UK could back and get up and running first, just as we pioneered the railways, the jet engine and the hovercraft.

 

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88 Comments

  1. lifelogic
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    We are rather a bit off this I feel. This Luddite, anti science, quack greenest government ever is far more interested in blocking the roads with traffic islands, environmental areas (to make you drive far further), anti-car phased traffic lights, empty bus lanes (mainly to raise fines), bike lanes and camera, motorist mugging devices. The technology they are interested in is mainly fine raising and control technology.

    They still push the idea that walking, buses, trains and bikes are better for reducing c02 (why it is just tree/plant food anyway). And this when in fact door to door they are no better on energy use than efficient cars.

    They still push electric cars with grants when, with current technology, they are clearly an expensive nonsense for most users. They still push intermittent wind/pv when it cost 3 to 4 times the price of other options.

    In short they live in a dream world that is more of a nightmare. Let the consumers, industry and market decide what works and is cost effective, without absurd government subsidies distorting the signals from consumers.

    But Cameron is clearly a Libdem, fake green, tax borrow and waste, say one thing do the other, pro EU ratter aiming for another coalition in 2015. He has not chance of even that with people like Ed Davy doing so much harm.

    • waramess
      Posted July 26, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      Let’s hope you are right Lifelogic or £45 billion plus spent on HS2 will be straight down the drain rather than just squandered.

    • uanime5
      Posted July 26, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      You forgot that the world is running out of oil, which is why oil based fuels are becoming increasingly more expensive. Therefore it would be better to develop some alternative modes of transport.

      • Jerry
        Posted July 26, 2013 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

        @U5: Even if you are correct about peak oil, which in the main you are not, there is already work going on to find suitable alternatives to oil as far as the motor vehicle is concerned if for no other reason thatn to appease the eco-worriers (pun intended…). The reason oil based fuels are becoming increasingly more expensive is nothing what so ever to do with their supply but that of the “green religion”.

        • uanime5
          Posted July 27, 2013 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

          Unless the world produces oil at the same rate that it’s consumed then peak oil will eventually come. It will also come if there’s available oil but there’s no feasible way to extract it.

          Also oil based fuels are becoming more expensive because oil is becoming more scarce and difficult to extract, which is why the price of oil per barrel has been increasing for decades despite increased oil production.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 28, 2013 at 6:12 am | Permalink

            @U5: Is that a Cuckoo nest I see…

      • Edward 2
        Posted July 26, 2013 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

        Wrong again Uni the world keeps finding new oil and the year the world was to run out keeps being put back
        Doomsday sadly delayed.

        • uanime5
          Posted July 27, 2013 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

          The world consumes 87.4 million barrels of oil per day. Approximately how much new oil are they finding and how long will it last?

          • Edward2
            Posted July 28, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

            Peak oil doomsday has been put back several times already, ever thought why?

      • outsider
        Posted July 26, 2013 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

        If you rely on old books, uanime5, the world ran out of oil some time ago. For instance, a 1972 book in front of me (typical of its time) estimates that world energy consumption to the year 2000 would be 4x world oil reserves and 7x world gas reserves. The more likely problem, close to home, is that we shall run short of electricity. But that would be solely due to the malign policies of UK governments over the past dozen years, not any exhaustion of natural resources.

        • uanime5
          Posted July 27, 2013 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

          Just because one book was wrong about the date oil would run out doesn’t mean that oil will never run out. Any finite resource will eventually run out.

          • Edward2
            Posted July 28, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

            Oil is not finite Uni.
            Nature hasn’t stopped making it.
            We only know the oil reserves we think we know
            New reserves are being discovered we never previously knew existed.

      • lifelogic
        Posted July 27, 2013 at 7:48 am | Permalink

        Actually the price of oil, in real terms before tax, has not gone very much nor did it run out in 1980/90 or whatever the green loon soothsayers told us at the time. When and if the price rises a lot we will just have to find alternatives plenty are available it is all about cost.

      • frank salmon
        Posted July 27, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

        There is more oil around than ever before. It is not expensive. It is very heavily taxed.

        • uanime5
          Posted July 27, 2013 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

          If there’s more oil around than ever before then where did this additional oil come from?

          • Edward2
            Posted July 28, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

            Uni
            We found it in new places.

      • peter davies
        Posted July 27, 2013 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

        Ever heard of oil fracking? I know there are environmental issues but the amount of oil available around the world is huge.

  2. Mike Stallard
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    Is there any money to be made here? Americans pioneered the very first cars and buses which had speed control. It hasn’t really caught on here though.
    Is there any demand?
    Has there been any market research?
    If not why not?

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted July 26, 2013 at 7:23 am | Permalink

      Mike–Quite right–I have speed control and don’t use it and don’t even like the CD’s stacked in the boot. There are other dinosaurs around like me who prefer a manual gearbox because we like to be in control as human beings. Cars are already far too complicated for what they are and stuff that most (male at least) drivers would happily have done themselves not too long ago (such as changing a light bulb) are now close to impossible–getting the bonnet open is challenge enough. Accidents will be fun. Not my fault my Lord, it was the robot. Cars will have to have much more servicing by expensive whizzkid mechanics and won’t last very long even then.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted July 26, 2013 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        Manual cars are far better, they can be push started when you have let the battery go flat, now that they no longer supply a starting handle. Also the change gear when you want them to not when you go over a railway bridge or something, still better on fuel too.

        Silly radios and CDs that need manual to use are another pain always jumping to traffic reports and similar, cheaper to fix and more reliable in general safer too.

        • Bazman
          Posted July 26, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

          You should not push start modern cars and if they where supplied with a starting handle I guarantee you could not start it by hand due to the high compression ratios now used. As for being better on fuel many autos are now better than a manual and seamlessly change gear. Design did not stop with the three speed Ford auto box. Getting valves for radios is not cheap…Though a cats whisker radio is no doubt superior in your word over DAB radio.

        • Jerry
          Posted July 26, 2013 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

          @Lifelogic: What utter piffle, do you still drive something made in the 1980s or before?! You would be hard pushed to push-start a modern car engine with a flat battery as you need the fuel pump running and the ECU operating before you stand a chance of starting it even using the starter-motor.

          • Leslie Singleton
            Posted July 28, 2013 at 5:47 am | Permalink

            Jerry–It is part of the problem that things are indeed as you say now. Sophistication run riot. Great when going otherwise impossible. Personally give me say a 1033 SS Jaguar.

        • peter davies
          Posted July 27, 2013 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

          Your showing your age LL when talking about starting handles!

          • Leslie Singleton
            Posted July 28, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

            Peter–Should he be ashamed of his age–I assure you starting handles were not all bad and surprisingly easily to use. No setting fire to yourself with jump leads, that’s is if you can find them.

  3. lifelogic
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    Surely someone can donate a richly deserved chauffeur in order for you to avoid the waiting.

    • Bazman
      Posted July 26, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      A knighthood, a country pile, servants, vast tracts of land and the keys to London. too.

  4. Martin
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    I think you are being optimistic here.

    Think of Sat Nav fun and games and even some basic routing programmes would sent folk down B roads instead of Motorways forgetting cow milking times and farmers on tractors etc! The other problem is the expensive car parks private or council would still be with us.

    Stick to the 737 and A320 and get a third runway built!

    P.S. If you want to help us motorists could we get Radio 5 on FM please. It seems too difficult for any government to manage even though it would please lots of folks .

    • libertarian
      Posted July 26, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      There’s no point in putting R5 on FM, if you remember FM was supposed to be phased out and replaced by DAB in 2012. Another government technology screw up ( similar to the …….Claire Perry and her complete ignorance over digital technology).

      The future of radio is internet. I’ve just ordered a new car it has an internet dash board built in. You can listen to any radio station from anywhere in the world wherever you are in the world. FM and DAB is far too restrictive for 21st century.

      If you dont have internet in your car currently down load TuneIn app to your smartphone and listen on that in the car

      You are right no technology is perfect but I suspect initially that self drive mechanisms will be used sparingly and then more and more as the technology stabilises.

  5. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    Talking of travel, the Spanish rail tragedy yesterday leaves devastation and a reminder what high speed travel can cause. Sympathies lie with the sufferers there.
    The news showed us a prototype of the new type of programmed car and they did resemble dodgem cars at a fairground , but if this new car takes off ( not literally) styles and designs would probably be more varied. The independence that this car would give must be an improvement, especially for mums with young families. It would be possible to comfort a baby and give family attention whilst travelling. Those people who insist on multitasking , eating and drinking would safely and easily be able to proceed.
    This is the type of invention that used to be featured on ‘Tomorrows World ‘ and it is indeed an exciting development. I will start saving.

  6. Jerry
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    I suppose even MPs should be allowed to be Day dream believers….

    Some of us had this debate the other day, I don’t intend to repeat what I said then, good day!

    Reply. I will be writing about the economy tomorrow and the EU on Sunday. I wrote this piece sometime ago and it got delayed in the queue. It is relevant a propos of railway investment decisions.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 26, 2013 at 7:27 am | Permalink

      On railways & investment decisions see the excellent Matt Ridley in the times.

      http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/article3824503.ece

      • Richard1
        Posted July 26, 2013 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for pointing it out. An excellent article, Matt Ridley talks a great deal of sense on many subjects. He is an argument for the return of hereditary peers to the House of Lords.

        • Jerry
          Posted July 27, 2013 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

          @Richard1: If he is anything he is an argument for peers to be appointed on merit and not because of who they are or some party political reason, I would no more want a return of hereditary peers as I would want elected peers – let us appoint experts to the Lords, not accidents of birth (who might not have inherited the common sense of their forbears never mind expertise) or people just because they are popular who thus talk the talk but can’t walk the walk…

    • Jerry
      Posted July 26, 2013 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      @JR reply: “It is relevant a propos of railway investment decisions.

      Well yes, put it that way I would far prefer £50bn to be spent on driver automation and the necessary improvements and modifications to the road network (plus the needed by-passes, link roads and the completion of the motorway network etc.) than the white elephant that HS2 will be [1] – but then there is a lot of railway investment that could also be done, for example the conversion of the old fashioned third rail electrified network [2] to the more efficient and (capable of) higher speed 25Kv overhead technology.

      [1] if there is a need it is more a need to have a Berne gauge north-south rail network rather than a HS passenger network

      [2] which accounts for 1/3rd of the London commuter network, those lines serving south of the Thames from Kent to Dorset

    • Lifelogic
      Posted July 26, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      I see Osborne has written a rather pathetic piece on the economy in the Times today. Is that really the best he can do? When on earth is he going to cut out the 50% of waste and over pay/pensions in the state sector and stop paying the feckless to augment them? He sounds even worse the John Major did, the economy is still 20% behind where it could have been had it had sensible government.

  7. Robert K
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    Brilliant!

  8. Andyvan
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    As someone that sees the endless problems and added cost of all the electronics in modern cars every day I suggest that such a development would be a nightmare. A car built in the late 1980s was reliable, quick, probably economical (certainly if it was a diesel) and easy to repair with fairly simple tools. Modern cars are extremely complex, require very expensive computerised diagnostics and are frequently uneconomic to repair once they are a few years old. Many are less reliable than their predecessors if only because of the sheer quantity of unnecessary electronic gadgets fitted to them. Diesel engines particularly are nowhere near as good, being finicky on type of fuel, totally reliant on black boxes, poorly designed and mechanically fragile. Last week a modern diesel engine failed after a mere 90k and was so expensive to repair we had to locate a secondhand engine that will probably do the same thing within 20k. I run two old Peugeot diesels and a Mercedes van all with over 200k that run perfectly on recycled veg oil. Put that oil in a new engine and it’s a new fuel pump and a strip down at the very least. If your scenario comes about I see a time where cheap to buy but impossible to repair techno marvels make us helpless in the face of the smallest problem. Some kind of fault with power grids, guidance satellites or just a glitch in some program could strand you and maybe thousands of others completely. We are already so reliant on large scale systems (water, electric, gas, internet) that are very vulnerable to all sorts of interruptions that even more complexity is sheer folly. Colin Chapman of Lotus had it right “Simplify, then add lightness”.

    • Bazman
      Posted July 26, 2013 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      A car built in the late 1980s was reliable, quick, probably economical (certainly if it was a diesel) and easy to repair with fairly simple tools.
      The late 1980’s was the dark ages for cars and if they were all so reliable and good why is there so few of them about. The late 90’s where not to good either. I have just bought a year old Ford S Max Diesel replacing a 1999 Ford Mondeo and you are trying to tell me older especially diesel cars were better? Dream on.

      • peter davies
        Posted July 27, 2013 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

        The perkins diesels were (which peugeot adpoted). I’ve had a few 80s-90s diesels of this type which were economical and bullet proof.

  9. oldtimer
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    When the day you dream about arrives, please remember to change the law on drinking and driving so that you are not breathalysed when your suitably equipped car is taking you home from the pub.

    It so happens that the driverless technology and technology that replaces the driver is already with us in limited form. Many new cars offer, for example, (1) automated parking in small places, (2) collision avoidance radar on motorways that will slow your vehicle to a halt and then start moving forward again in response to the speed of the vehicle in front while maintaining a distance you specify, (3) the latest Mercedes S class will even prevent you changing motorway lanes if it senses a potential collision. All this comes at a considerable cost – but it will be much cheaper than HS2 as I think you imply.

  10. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Way back in the seventies, we made calculations and scenarios how indicidual transport pods would combine on highways to form temporary trains (like a row of magnets), but in retirement and with no more lease car, I have given over to comment-free chauffeur driven cars. I just programme the spouse, or programme the sat-nav for her, and I always wake up when we’re about to reach our destination 🙂

  11. Richard1
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I agree with this. Rail requires hugely expensive infrastructure, and requires passengers to travel from one fixed point to another at predetermined times. Flexible travel is far more economically efficient. Rail probably has many decades of life yet as these new technologies get going. But its madness for the govt to be thinking of spending, eg, £50bn on HS2. We’ll need to wait for the history books but I suspect the reason for the dreaded ‘consensus’ on HS2 is it is (or was) perceived to be ‘green’. Another huge cost of the great global warming scare.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted July 26, 2013 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      Indeed walking, bikes, cars, coaches, planes, taxis and just a few commuter and inter city trains are the answer.

  12. Mike Wilson
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    ‘ …Soon the technology with sat navs and satellite controls will allow similar treatment for a vehicle using the normal highway. ….

    Really? Every time the weather turns nasty we lose satellite TV. This is the stuff of daydreams I am afraid. We don’t even have consistent mobile phone coverage yet. Maybe on motorways you could install towers every half a mile with a consistent signal that could control all the vehicles on a motorway.

    Talking, as you were, about rich people. Clearly they will be the only people who will ever use HS2.

    HS2 will be the biggest white elephant of them all. (Is one allowed to say ‘white elephant’ these days, I don’t know the historical connotations.)

  13. Denis Cooper
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    In theory this could lead to major increases in productivity and prosperity.

    Because there would no longer be drivers, only passengers, the substantial part of the population which cannot drive for various reasons would no longer be dependent on drivers to get them from place to place.

    So the valuable time of those who are now drivers would be freed up for more productive activities, both when they were making their own journeys and when they were no longer providing a taxi service for others.

    Most parents will immediately recognise those words “providing a taxi service”, and see the advantages of being able to load the children into pods and send them off to school on their own while Mum is free to start work in her pod on the way to her high powered job (in this Brave New World all women will have high powered jobs, by law), and similarly if there is a Dad then he can start doing any job he may have (whatever was left over after the best jobs had been allocated to the women), with no need to worry about the school run either in the morning or the evening.

    And then those numerous trips to and from various out of school activities could all be achieved without any need for a parent to waste time acting as a taxi driver; instead that time would become available for more useful purposes, maybe doing some more paid work from home and so further boosting GDP.

    I expect there’d be some disadvantages, but it definitely seems to be the way forward.

  14. Edward2
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    There is a considerable amount of information on the web which shows the technologies behind these vehicles and how close this revolution is to becoming a reality.
    I will just link to one site which is a short BBC news article showing that on road trials are starting this year in the UK
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23330681

    In the USA 7 States have now passed laws to allow these vehicles onto the highway and the main project by Google has already completed several hundred thousand miles of successful testing and Google claim that their system will be ready within 5 years.
    Volvo, BMW, Mercedes and Audi as well as some UK companies that I know, are even closer and may have vehicles ready for public launch very soon.

    Many of us are happily using automatic gears and cruise control which lately has developed into active cruise control where the system convoys the vehicle in front keeping a safe distance and speed and applying the brakes as required.
    Recently we have seen cars which can park themselves and lane control systems which alert a driver if they move out of lane or if there is another vehicle in their blindspot.
    This autonomous car revolution is just another step up from where we are now.

    Most accidents are caused by driver error, excess speed, failure to brake in time and failing to see another vehicle or pedestrian in the way and this technology will stop these things happening leading to less accidents, injuries and deaths on the roads as well as reducing congestion.
    I see two problems, one is for drivers having to accept that these vehicles can drive more perfectly than they can and for legislators trying to define how much monitoring is required by the human in the car.

    • Jerry
      Posted July 26, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      @Edward2: “Most accidents are caused by driver error, excess speed, failure to brake in time and failing to see another vehicle or pedestrian in the way and this technology will stop these things happening

      Total utter rubbish, more accidents are avoided because of the human element than are caused by it, how many vehicular movements in any 24 hrs, how many of those lead to an accidents – call yourself an engineer, more like an investor talking up their latest “opportunity”…

      • Martyn G
        Posted July 26, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

        I am confused as to your comment. Edward2’s statement about the main cause of accidents is entirely correct – car do not go around crashing into each other and there is years of evidence to support the fact that driver error is the primary cause of accidents.
        But at the same time your statement is quite true – perhaps tens of thousands of accidents are avoided daily by driver reaction or input. So I am puzzled as to your comment about Edward2’s statement? Is there something I am missing?

        • Edward 2
          Posted July 27, 2013 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

          I can explain Martyn.
          It is Jerry’s hobby to make endless pedantic comments which state the obvious and fail to move the debate forward.
          This one is a classic.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 28, 2013 at 6:32 am | Permalink

            @Edward2: It’s your comments that stop such debate going forwards, you are wedded to technology for technology sake, regardless of the need or the practicality of implementing it – after all there is no technical reason why any human can’t enjoy space flight, even go to the Moon, there is no technical reason why man could not travel to Mars either, think about it…

            Engineers not only design but cut through the cr*p, marketing people simply do hype, you seem to be no “engineer”.

          • Edward2
            Posted July 28, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

            I havn’t a clue what you are waffling on about Jerry
            I agree there is no limit to man’s inventiveness, Its up to customers to decide if they want to buy these new ideas and for engineers to take inventions and make them work safely in numbers

          • Jerry
            Posted July 28, 2013 at 10:55 am | Permalink

            Edward2: I think you mean that engineers make things as safe as possible, that doesn’t mean that the technology is “Safe”, nor that it should be adopted/deployed – many things are possible but undesirable, a good engineer recognises this and accept it [1], when they do not we get the Challenger and Columbia disasters, or the many air crashes caused by blind faith in the technology, on a more down to earth problem many drivers still do not understand what ABS does on their cars and thus how to correctly use it, nor do many seem able to use sat-navs correctly, “Officer, the sat-nav told me to turn down this road, it’s not my fault that the road is to narrow (or that it’s actually a railway track)!”…

            [1] whilst poor engineers or marketing people (and dare I say, politicains) get caught up in the hype

          • Edward2
            Posted July 28, 2013 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

            Usual pedantic nonsense.
            Its up to you Jerry if you want to drive a Morris Minor or a Prius or catch the bus or buy the autonomous car when it arrives.
            Engineers just make things for you.
            If you want to buy them, then fine
            Its your choice.

      • Edward 2
        Posted July 26, 2013 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

        I might have guessed you would come up with your usual dollop of nonsense Jerry
        You need to find something positive to do with your time.

        • Jerry
          Posted July 27, 2013 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

          @Edward2: Talk about the frying pan trying to call the kettle black, what do you not understand, technology doesn’t stop crashes, if they do then recent train crash in Spain would not, could not [1], have happened, aircraft have crashed because people lick you think that technology is always better than the human brain…

          [1] in the UK ATC would have stopped that train, unless of course the system failed.

      • Edward 2
        Posted July 26, 2013 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

        Before you make further unwarranted defamatory comments Jerry just be informed that I do not have any financial interests in anything to do with this emerging technology.

        • Jerry
          Posted July 27, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

          @Edward2: Touchy, touchy! But glad that you have admitted that you have no first hand knowledge of these systems…

          • Edward2
            Posted July 28, 2013 at 9:24 am | Permalink

            No Jerry read what I said.
            You insinuated that I was posting on this topic because I had a financial interest to promote
            Which I do not.
            An apology from you rather than your very poor reply would have been expected from a decent person.

  15. Iain Gill
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Google have been doing this in the States for a long time.

    I am not sure being the early adopter or inventor is always for the best, capitalising on stuff is where the money is.

    I dont think you need to wait for new technology to get big benefits, you simply need to copy traffic management from the best of the rest of the world instead of our own nasty anti car version.

  16. outaider
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    If one had such a car, I wonder if one would sit in the back or the front? As a driver, I find it tiring to sit in the front passenger seat of someone else’s car, though it would be rude to sit in the back.

    • Jerry
      Posted July 26, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      @outsider: You as the ‘driver’ would be required to sit in the front driving seat, and be ready to take over the control at any time should the system fail, so why Mr Redwood thinks that people will be allowed to -in effect- drink and drive escapes me. of course the other option would be that mile after mile of the national road network would have to be brought to a halt until the failed vehicle can be isolated and removed off the highway, think railway signal or train failure scenario…

  17. wab
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    “We could get better use out of our roads, as the vehicle could advise on likely times for the journey to minimise travel time.”

    We already have this to some extent. The problem is road space not technology. Of course if you are an economist you might believe that the best solution is to tax people for driving dependent on the time of day (etc.) so that eventually we end up with all our roads perpetually busy 24 hours a day. Fortunately the country has not gone down that route yet.

    (After a week on the control freak tendencies of the government with regard to tobacco, alcohol, food, etc., it was interesting that Mr Redwood did not cover the major control freak issue of the week, i.e. internet porn, in particular internet child porn. Mr Cameron has shown that he is willing to pander to the Daily Mail and for the thousandth time put style above substance. People who have no clue about the internet, such as Mr Cameron and also that self-publicist of an MP who had her website hacked, should not really go around pontificating on the subject.)

  18. Posted July 26, 2013 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    What you are suggesting is one of the principle reasons why HS2 will be obsolete before it is completed and should therefore be cancelled.

    The money spent would be far better utilised widening our motorways and installing cabling under the two centre lanes in each direction. The cabling would be used to charge and steer electric and hybrid vehicles which will require no driver input on route and produce CO2 only indirectly from electricity generation.

    Traffic density on these lanes can be much higher through closer running and accidents eliminated almost completely. Conventional vehicles would use the outer lanes. We should start with the main North-South motorways and spread the system wider over time.

    Crucially, the £50bn ( In reality more like £100bn ) that was to be spent on HS2would be spent in a way that would benefit many more people because those travelling to and from areas outside London, Birmingham and Manchester would be able to use the system.

    It will never be economical and efficient for anyone outside the principle cities to use HS2. I live in Dorset and it would simply not be practical to go to London to join the line.

    This technology exists today and would be of real benefit to everyone.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted July 26, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      Indeed HS2 will cost many times its value and cause a huge net loss of jobs and reduction in the UK’s ability to compete and disrupt for many years before any return what so ever.

  19. Atlas
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    If it possible John, then I’d love it. We’ve been seeing such cars in the USA recently. My question is how well such cars can handle the varied weather conditions of this country, in conjunction with our narrow lanes, pot-holes, etc.

    As others have commented, we’d still have the parking problem. However, the removal of all the green anti-car measures on the roads would increase capacity now as well as in the future. I’ve just driven to Cheltenham and was mentally wondering just how much fuel as well as that more precious item – life-time – was wasted when I was stuck in their traffic light manufacturers paradise that is that Lib-Dem town.

  20. Glenn Vaughan
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    I don’t know what you were drinking when you wrote this message John but could you send me a bottle of it please?

  21. Acorn
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    “Bring it on. This would be the kind of development the UK could back and get up and running first”. You should get out more JR. The Dutch and the Italians are way ahead of us with PRT; the Masdar City (Abu Dhabi) system they designed, to do what you want but, it has been shelved by the financial crisis, at a theme park ride level of operation. The Heathrow ULTra system was cheap and cheerful and typically underfunded in true UK style.

    BTW I am told that in the last month, a unit of electricity (kWh), was traded as a financial instrument (as in casino banking), one hundred times before it was sold as a physical lump of energy to a consumer. The consumer paid for the electricity plus the net mark-up caused by the hundred spivs who traded it.

  22. Posted July 26, 2013 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    The very reasons that I oppose HS2. My instinct tells me that by the time it is up and running it will have been superseded by some more advanced form of travel. certainly for those with money who would be the main users of the new service.
    I envisage a future where our vehicles will have automatic driving along the Motorways and some major A roads, enabling passengers to relax as on a train. The driver would take over control once it has reached the appropriate slip road and drive to his destination as at present. This would be less hassle than getting to a station, catching a train and perhaps using a hire car at the destination.
    Just as Britain was the first country to move from the stage coach to rail, we should try to be the first to try to move from rail to the next generation of transport.

  23. Bert Young
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Your blog highlights the stupidity of the HS2 project . Making more efficient use of the existing road network with the sort of technology being developed at Oxford University , is the right way to go . Providing the subsequent commercial development of this technology is exploited , the UK could forget about its economic woes . We must not “sell on” to other countries ; it was a great mistake for EMI to release the MRI scanner to the USA having developed it to the point of practical use .

  24. Posted July 26, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    This will be good if it rids us of near-empty taxpayer-subsidised buses polluting the atmosphere.

  25. Tom William
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Allister Heath, of the Daily Telegraph, had an excellent article on 30 April about the development of driverless cars, with special high speed roads for them, and how H2S will be obsolete before it is finished.

  26. Posted July 26, 2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    It is indeed the sort of technological progress that could get us out of recession if only our Luddite political class would allow it.

    However John is, to the best of my knowledge, the only MP to have even mentioned this transport revolution just as, a few years ago, he was the only MP to support space development.

    (Space is now getting a bit more coverage but all that is happening is that with “the worst space agency in the world” it is being used to shovel money at the ESA bureaucrats who have wasted 99.9% of previous money.)

    Lifelogic you are wrong about this being “a bit away”. Automated cars are already road legal in Nevada and silicon valley and the Cambridge group say that in the near future it only add just over £100 to the building cost of new cars. Britain, of course, is not yet even at the stage of allowing it if there is a man with a red flag walking ahead – something agreed to have assisted in Britain’s late Victorian technological decline.

    As someone who has here & elsewhere promoted UKIP’s policy of putting our space money into an X-Prize Foundation may I point out that this breakthrough was brought about by DARPA offering $3 million in prizes. They subsequently said that if it had been funded conventionally they would have had to spend $100 mill & might well have got nothing. I have taken this as proof that X-Prizes are at least 33 times more effective than conventional funding. If so then even without increasing our space budget of £330m it would match NASA’s $18 bn in effectiveness.

    If our political class (John and UKIP excepted) were not scientifically illiterate Luddites whose attitude to technology has for the last 50 years been “Doh whassat?”

    And as John points out this makes conventional rail obsolete, or rather even more obsolete. However if it is practical to run cars automatically it is clearly easy to do so with trains.

  27. Robert Taggart
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    More interesting will be the reaction of you politicos – Johnny !…
    When something proves to be popular your like cannot help themselves – to a ‘share’ of that popularity – through new and previously unheard of taxes !
    Moi ? – would be happy to driven around by someone / thing else – as now – by public transport !

    • libertarian
      Posted July 27, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Dear Robert

      Typically selfish urban dweller. Out here in the sticks public transport is non existent and is totally non viable. I think we ought to vastly raise your taxes so that we can have subsidised one person bus services in ultra rural areas. Not

      • Robert Taggart
        Posted July 28, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        You want your ‘liberrty’ ? libertarian ?? – Pony and Trap !

  28. Normandee
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    “John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.”

    John, I have no problem with this, but exactly when did you become one of “the rest of us”? I imagine your pensions would keep several families going for a while, again I don’t care but don’t try to be “down with the crowd” when you aren’t

    Reply. Not so.

    • Edward2
      Posted July 26, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      Well Norm, isn’t that what the words “community” “society” and “nation” mean?
      In that we all belong, whoever we are.
      Or is being “one of us ” reserved just for those you happen to agree with or have a similar education, background and income to you.

  29. uanime5
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    While automated vehicles will be very beneficial to the general population the technology is still in its early phases. At present most automated vehicles are the only thing on the track (to ensure there’s no other vehicles to crash into), the tracks are enclosed by walls (to prevent anything getting on the tracks), and they’re also only used over a very short distance (under 10km / 6 miles).

    I predict that if an automatic vehicle is ever going to be created it will be need to be able to switch from tracks to the road (mainly because the tracks will only be available in a few areas initially). An example would be a bus that can also run on tram tracks.

    • Edward 2
      Posted July 26, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

      You are so wrong Uni, its hilarious.
      Look it up on the web and get informed instead of guessing.

      • uanime5
        Posted July 27, 2013 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

        I have researched this subject. The only automatic vehicles that are actually available to the public are the type I described. Things like the driverless car are still being tested on actual roads and fully autonomous cars are unlikely to be available to the public for several years.

        • Edward2
          Posted July 28, 2013 at 9:27 am | Permalink

          You are wrong.
          Do some more research

  30. Mark B
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    OK, I give up ! What’s the catch ? There is always a catch when government are involved.

  31. Anonymous
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    In theory driverless cars sound a good idea but on complex roads such as in the UK they aren’t.

    How will they distinguish from an untethered dog and a tethered one on the footpath ? Or the wayward drunk pedestrian from a careful one or loose toddler or one that is being supervised properly ? What about awareness of an overtaking motorcyclist in the distance or person approaching a crossing (are they about to cross or not ? Will the computer read facial expressions/stance ?)

    These are just a few examples of risks that a driver has to assess and filter in any moment. How are computerised cars to operate in this environment without a continual stop-start in traffic or very slow speed ?

    It would be far better for minds to be put to WHY people need to travel so much.

    Why are people forced to live so far from where they work ? Why can’t young people afford to live near their parents ? Why do parents need to retire to cheaper parts of the country hundreds of miles away ?

    All of this results in record amounts of traffic.

    My guess is that there will be far more realistic Virtual Reality conferencing and socialising than there is now too.

  32. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted July 26, 2013 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Who on earth wants someone else to control the movement of their motor car from A to B? The whole point of my motor car is that I am in control of it. If your control system took your car through a fjord that was temporarily flooded, who would compensate you? I’ll wager that no one would compensate you.

  33. alan jutson
    Posted July 27, 2013 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    This one is an interesting view into the future, but I think you are getting ahead of yourself John.

    Please remember that you also have to include an allowance for government interference that will screw up many of your thoughts.

    Increased taxation on anything that moves, government subsidy on things that are not efficient, regulation and restriction on new processes, new laws for criminal responsibility (accidents where no driver is present), higher parking fees in popular destinations.

    Nice to dream, but let us take small steps at a time, unlike the first Industrial revolution, Governments are now ahead of the curve, not behind.

    Then of course there is the ever present EU legislation, unless of course we are out of it by then,.

  34. rick hamilton
    Posted July 27, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    A car that drives itself is the last thing I would buy. I want to drive my car myself, not rely on some irritating computer-controlled system with a mind of its own. We are all fitted with a brain which should enable us to control a vehicle vastly more competently than any (affordable) computer.

    Possibly travelling in columns of vehicles up a motorway with radar-controlled fixed distances inbetween and steady speeds would prevent some traffic jams but you will still need to pay attention to what’s going on all the time.

    I cannot understand the hostility to HS trains, having travelled on the Japanese system every week for seven years. If this were available in the UK I would never drive a long distance or fly domestically, but it is the whole integrated transport system and its efficiency and punctuality that is the key.

    Of course the UK is miles behind – the Japanese Shinkansen has been running for almost 50 years and they are now building a 500kph maglev line. If in the UK we thought ahead like the Japanese, by now it would be possible to board a high speed train in Belfast and go all the way to Paris, Milan or Berlin via the Eurotunnel. Unfortunately such vision is entirely lacking and instead, people pin their hopes on dream technology which in their minds will always magically cost less than what actually works in the real world. (Wind turbines spring to mind).

    Forget driverless cars. Somebody invent a robot than can iron shirts instead !

  35. sm
    Posted July 28, 2013 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Why cant we have an arrangement today whereby – coach hubs are setup outside say London close to a motorway or similar. The fixed rail networks should be mandated to offer a connection at a minimal prices.

    Or just build overhead tracks above rail routes or side by side for coaches only. Then we might get competition.

    The coach hub would then offer competition on many routes at low cost and avoid the congested London traffic which adds disproportionately to the journey and precludes use in some cases.

    Why is travel so expensive?

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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