Driverless technology: are you ready?

Hornby Whitefoot PRIt’s safe to say we’ve never lived in a more exciting age. Emerging technologies are arresting our senses and shaping our future. Life seems to be evolving at breakneck speed and who knows where we will be in 10 years’ time, never mind 100. It’s enthralling but also a little scary. We’re storming frontiers never entered before and the fear of the unknown is a normal human reaction.

Take driverless cars. The Silicon Valley God, Google, has pledged that by 2020 self-driving cars will be as common as the grey squirrel. To date, Google’s automated vehicles have clocked up several millions of miles on American streets and, if all goes to plan, the UK will soon follow suit.  The question is, are we ready?

Let’s start with the practicalities. There are obstacles to be overcome, and not just literal ones. Miles of red tape and legal issues still need to be tackled over here, with a significant investment having been made by Innovate UK (a science and technology funding body formerly known as the Technology Strategy Board) that supports four driverless car projects across the country. This is more to understand, measure and assess the potential impact on society and individuals of driverless cars than anything else, rather than creating new technologies. There’s also the challenge of identifying a safe test environment; there are also concerns about how a machine will deal with the unexpected and not least of all, the challenge of understanding the relationship between man and machine.

Currently, there are many more questions than there are answers and these essential criteria that need to be adequately addressed are just the mere tip of a humungous iceberg. That said, it is not a question of if, but when, we’ll see automated vehicles on our roads. It’s incredibly exciting, but there is clearly a lot to consider before we can let go of the steering wheel just yet.

If, however, you are still finding the concept a little bit too much to take in right now, then how about driverless shopping trolleys? US supermarket chain Walmart is said to be working to create driverless trolleys that guide customers around its stores. Perhaps the thought of avoiding busy supermarkets after a stressful day at the office offers us more of a remedy for our increasingly busier lives than anything else right now!

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