Volvo sped on with the testing of a driverless, five-vehicle convoy on a Spanish motorway last week. But how many of us would be prepared to hand over control of our cars while we sit back and relax?
As part of its Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) project, Volvo sent a truck and four of its cars onto the motorway without drivers. The vehicles knew where to go using a combination of cameras, radar and lasers to follow a ‘lead’ truck, which was driven by a professional driver for 124 miles.
Volvo claims this new technology will soon let us to link our cars into convoys, leaving us to get on with reading the newspaper or working on a laptop while we’re driven to our destination.
And Volvo isn’t alone. In May, Google obtained a licence to test a driverless Toyota Prius on the desert roads of Nevada.
Dangers of driverless driving
This all sounds great in theory. After all, many people waste two to three hours a day stuck in traffic jams and would probably welcome the chance to get that time back.
But I worry about the safety of such a system, as it only takes one vehicle messing up to result in a massive pile-up, rather than the intended cut in accidents.
I’d also find it hard to give up the control of my car and simply ignore anything that’s going on around me. The temptation to grab the wheel and jump to a faster-moving driverless convoy could be too much to resist.
To prevent this, I think manufacturers would need to fit cars with fold-away controls, and perhaps even provide curtains to block the view of the road so that people can totally switch off. If not, there’s always the chance that a driver could accidentally knock the controls and cause an accident.
My car is my castle
I have vivid memories of an old AA report revealing that a large proportion of road-rage incidents are caused because people see their cars as their own little castles. So how will we be convinced to relinquish the control we have over our own vehicles?
OK, so if I get stuck in a major jam caused by an accident, then I might be happy to let another vehicle take the lead. But most of the time, I enjoy driving; that’s one of the reasons I work with cars! Giving up the control would take away something I enjoy as well as my important relaxation and reflection time.
So I won’t be joining any driverless convoys any time soon. But what do you think about driverless cars? Would you relish the extra time to get things done, or would you hate to give up control?
Would you like to travel around in a driverless vehicle convoy?
Maybe - when the technology is proven (32%, 75 Votes)
Yes - I'd like to relax! (24%, 56 Votes)
No - I like to be in control (19%, 43 Votes)
No - I enjoy driving (16%, 36 Votes)
No - I'm concerned about safety (9%, 22 Votes)
Total Voters: 236