For those not old enough to remember (pretty much all of you, I assume), back in the 1950s there was a lot of talk about the impending arrival of flying cars. Technological optimism ran sky-high in those days, and many scientists, industrialists and sci-fi enthusiasts were convinced we’d all soon be whizzing about the troposphere in our Ford Falcons, Chevy Eagles and Chrysler Hummingbirds.
In reality the flying cars were never more than a fantasy, the product of a delirious time in America where people believed science and technology could provide solutions to every problem. Many scientists and inventors still seem to believe this, but now most of us look at them with jaundiced eyes hardened by perpetual disappointment.
But for once it might be wise to suspend our cynicism. Because it seems the scientific ‘gee-whiz’ crowd is actually on the verge of producing something truly revolutionary and cool. The flying cars never materialized but driverless cars are on their way, and they are going to transform the way we travel and live in the very near future.
That’s not just a random prediction coming from techno-utopians or blowhard Internet pundits. This proclamation is coming from auto industry insiders and political bigwigs, who’ve embraced the driverless car concept with unbridled enthusiasm.
All the major auto companies are working on driverless prototypes, many of which have already been successfully tested. Google is also getting in on the act; its primary goal is to revolutionize the taxi industry with its branded driverless discount taxis, which Google plans to deploy in cities across the nation as soon as the technology is ready.
And when that happens the term ‘Googling’ will take on a whole new meaning.
During a recent appearance at the Frankfurt (Germany) Auto Show, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx predicted driverless cars would be a common sight on European, North American and Asian streets by the year 2025. U.S. auto industry execs are committed to bringing driverless cars to the showroom floor within five years. But these vehicles will be rather expensive at first, so it may be a while before these self-guided carriages show up on American’s highways en masse.
Who Needs Flying Cars, Anyway?
In horror movies, if you see a driverless car coming your way the best course of action is to run for your life. But unlike a certain 1958 Red Plymouth Fury named Christine, these new driverless cars are possessed only by extremely sophisticated technology and not by the Devil. They are coming, they are coming fast and they are coming to a dealership near you, and all you’ll have to do is jump in, sit back and enjoy the ride.
And since studies show driver error is responsible for 93 percent of all serious car accidents, the imminent arrival of the driveless cars is probably a very good thing.