How do you feel about handing over the wheel of your car?  Many of us love driving but this is due to change. Driverless cars already exist in some forms, but they will hit the mass market in the early 2020s and will develop over the years to come.

It won’t be long before we’ll be in our cars and able to read a story to the kids on our way to a holiday in Norfolk; write a business report during our morning commute; or relax enjoying the sights during a private tour of the Scottish Highlands.

AI [artificial intelligence]-operated vehicles can “travel safely closer together and with less braking and accelerating than human drivers”. This will mean less congestion and greater overall efficiency, according to a Guardian interview with Stan Boland, chief executive of FiveAI.

Consider the dangerous driving issues like speeding, drink-driving, negligence, phone-use etc, and it becomes clear how much safer AI-controlled cars could be.

Perhaps surprisingly, as the availability of driverless cars goes up, car ownership is projected to go down. This makes sense when you think about how driverless cars could fit into our lives.

You may need a car only for your commute to work and the occasional weekend trip. Owning a car and storing it 24/7, with all the related responsibilities, will make little sense for the part-time driver when options such as renting and sharing are available.

Just imagine it. A car has driven another commuter to work for the early shift, then driven itself straight from the commuter’s office to your home. Having dropped you off at your workplace, it goes to the next nearest person in need of a vehicle.

What about deliveries?

Driverless vehicles will benefit from 5G mobile technology. Autonomous vehicles will be able to communicate with one another, and other road users – technology that will also be used in driverless delivery vehicles, which will be used far more than delivery drones.

Amazon has certainly excited the world by painting a picture of airborne drone delivery, but it is not at all straightforward. The drones would have to be near to where we live and work to be more efficient than road-based delivery. That could mean noise pollution as well as visual eyesores. There are also the safety concerns of a cluttered airspace.

Autonomous delivery vehicles are being designed in varying forms. Mole Solutions is working on below-ground freight capsules. Pelipod is pioneering delivery pods that will travel straight to the destination for business customers.

And Kar-Go, the driverless delivery vehicle from my own Academy of Robotics, will autonomously navigate unmarked roads such as residential areas, and use an intelligent package management system to deliver packages to retail customers, day or night.

Expect to see your online purchase delivered in something looking as if it’s from a sci-fi movie.

A sci-fi future

It’s not unrealistic to imagine a future where your new iPhone will be delivered digitally.  You’ll make your purchase as a digital download and, through some 3D printer/fax machine hybrid, it will be re-assembled in your home.

It makes Star Trek’s “beam me up, Scottie” seems a genuine possibility –  but not any time soon. Technological advancements – despite accelerations in the digital age – are gradual.

In the meantime, you can relax in a driverless car.

This is a guest post by William Sachiti (pictured), founder of robotics technologies start-up, the Academy of Robotics and Kar-Go, which is developing an autonomous delivery vehicle.

Comment on this article

You must be logged in to post a comment.