Sunday, May 10, 2015

Google car to replace the Audi?

How many times have you heard about families trying to gently persuade or develop all kinds of Machiavellian plots to get an aged parent or grandparent's driving license handed in or forcibly removed?

While there are plenty of capable elderly drivers on the roads, there are also regular reports of someone's grand pop taking out a shop front, or inadvertantly treating some sidewalk dining tables as a drive-through. It would be funny if it wasn't so life threatening to innocent bystanders.

The issue is that, as people get older, their driving license becomes a symbol of independence and capacity for self-sufficiency.

It's easy to emphathise with this, particularly in a country like Australia where rickety public transport services make it a necessity in some places.

So, it is with great interest that, I have been watching the evolution of the next generation of cars. Tesla's rocket ship electric cars (I had a Scalectrix prototype as a kid, but thank God you don't need to slots cut in the road to make Tesla's version work!).

While Tesla's cars are already changing the auto industry, from manufacture right through to marketing and distribution, I think the biggest game changer will be the self-driving cars, like those Google types trialing on US roads right now.

The reason I think they'll create the biggest impact is that they have the potential to revolutionise the lives and capabilities of our ageing population.

If these cars can create the opportunity to 'uber' a driverless car to the front door to do the shopping run, or whip down to the local club, then they potentially have the capacity to deliver the independence, feedom and mobility so desired by the elderly, the disabled and others.

Their other social impacts may be a reduction in traffic accidents, cleaner air and a bunch of other community level benefits. But at the individual level, enabling individuals to extend their capabilities will be the most appreciated.

My long-held loyalty to Audi, misplaced though it may be in the eyes of some, may hang in the balance if my favourite automaker doesn't come to the party with a driverless carriage before I head off on my final journey.

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