National politics

The future of cars (and trains) will come faster than you think

Google driverless carI was interested to see Allister Heath’s comments today about driverless cars. They will change the world and much, much faster than you can imagine. You may have heard of Google’s driverless car project being undertaken by some of the same people who came up with Street View.

Driverless cars will mean that it becomes much, much cheaper to buy a car or rent vans by the journey rather than owning one, according to Parallel importer in Singapore. Cars will become a service proposition. When you want to go somewhere you will put your destination into an app and get price and availability quotes back from suppliers. The price might make you think again and the app will tell you how quickly you could walk there. If you choose to be driven you accept a quote and your driverless car will arrive outside at the agreed time.

Driving yourself will soon look very silly and expensive compared to an automatic car that gets paid for by the journey. Sharing the capital cost of the car over many people will make driving much cheaper. Rather like commercial aircraft are always in the air or being serviced on the ground cars will always be in motion or in the repair shop being fixed.

The car rental business will disappear.

The taxi business will disappear.

All street signs and street furniture will disappear.

Car parking will disappear. Our roads will quickly empty apart from moving vehicles.

Hotels will become a destination only business – business travellers will just kip in the car on the way home.

Our front gardens will come back and garages will become a thing of the past. It will seem ridiculous to use any of your property to store a car.

Our road capacity will increase by 6 times.

Most public transport will be made redundant. The Tube system might survive and a couple of metro systems but pretty much everything else will get superseded by cheaper driverless car journeys. Driverless car providers will innovate so much faster than ponderous governments and rolling stock producers that it will soon become obvious that you should dig up the railways. Our railways will become long distance, driverless car only high speed routes.

Drink driving will disappear. You will pay more for a ride at 11.30pm on a Saturday night but the market will decide if you pay more or have another drink and wait for the price to come down after the rush.

Is this a fantasy? I don’t think so. My Samsung Galaxy SIII came with faultless satnav thrown in for free. I didn’t ask for it. It was just there and it works. This would have been a fantasy ten years ago.

I am prepared to bet that my five year old will never learn to drive.

However, there will be one thing unhanged. You would still need to be careful with car key and door lock. Learn about Kingstone Locksmith, if you need the best modern lock for your car.

The government should not spend £35 billion on HS2 – it should take a few billion Pounds and work out how to speed up driverless cars in the UK. The economies that get this technology implemented first will reap huge benefits.

4 replies on “The future of cars (and trains) will come faster than you think”

This is very interesting. i had expert systems clients in my family business in the 1990s and I am intrigued by just how these driver-less cars will cope with Leighton Road at 6:30pm on a Tuesday. Two cars and a van travelling west and two taxis travelling east try to negotiate along the road with cars parked either side. With human drivers it’s a muddle but with nods and flashing lights and even conversation it some how gets sorted – but with robot drivers I seriously doubt this.

The notion that street signs will disappear is fanciful. Don’t cyclists and pedestrian deserve some clues as to where they are. Business travellers will sleep in their cars? I think not. they could do that now should they want to but very few do. Buses will survive. Not everyone will be able to afford a car hire and if we all use these driver-less cars at the same time it will be grid lock.

The Government should not build HS2 admittedly but only because we can’t afford it and also because it will expand London and if anything we need to expand anywhere else but London.


If public transport disappears, don’t you think the roads would get even more congested than they already are? The article says “mass road-building required” – oh great, so even more of this country covered in grey concrete and petrol fumes everywhere. Instead of encouraging more cars on the road, politicians should be working on making cycling safer and improving public transport, so that our air is cleaner and people have a safer environment to live in.



I am not advocating the dismantling of the public transport system. I am just pointing out how the world would change if, say, you could get point to point transport at a cost of about 10p per mile. That would make public transport redundant for most journeys. Driverless cars would be about 1/10th of the price of today’s minicabs because there would be no drivers, their insurance would be very cheap and they would be very fuel efficient – they would be small, light and have no heavy-footed driver. Congestion would be minimised partly because driverless cars could be packed much more densely on the roads and also because you could use price to smooth demand – if the price for a ride to work at 7am or 10am is half the price of a ride at 8.30am (and the wait time is shorter) a lot of people would go for the lower price.

If you don’t think that the application of cheap electronics and the internet to cars isn’t going to be revolutionary then you will be in for a shock. My predictions might not come true but some equally startling ones will.


“if the price for a ride to work at 7am or 10am is half the price of a ride at 8.30am (and the wait time is shorter) a lot of people would go for the lower price.”

Unless employers dramatically change working practices, not many of us can make that choice. My employers wouldn’t appreciate me turning up at 10am every day just because it’s cheaper! The article you have linked to, written by someone who has (hopefully) researched the matter, doesn’t agree with you that congestion will be minimised just by cars being packed more densely – Allister Heath says “Self-driving cars will lead to an explosion in the number of vehicles and more efficient use of the existing road network is unlikely to be enough, with mass road-building required. ”

Unfortunately politicians probably will support this trend and build more roads, whilst simultaneously reducing public transport funding, because the votes of car drivers are important – even if our air quality is rubbish as a result.


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