Autonomy, Automation.., oh and Boredom.
I have a vision of my automotive future and it is automated.
My family would lease a vehicle large enough for carrying us and whatever we need to take with us. It would take me to work and here's the unusual bit, it would take itself home for whatever my family need of it. It doesn't need to be sat in my employer's parking lot all day. If it needs charging or fuelling, why should I stand guard over it? It can go sort itself out and my contract with whichever fuel provider will take care of the payment. On the odd occasion we need to be in two places at the same time, our lease agreement would ensure a second loan vehicle would appear, driverless, when needed. Servicing, of course, would be provided. Drinking and driving, a thing of the past. Kids need picking up from school? The car can go.
Now this doesn't mean that I want to chase cars from the streets. Far from it, I love cars and driving, but there are better things I could be doing in the time to and from work than avoid crashing in traffic. When I want to go for a drive there are better times to do it than rush hour.
As I understand it most, if not all, of the technology to make this happen already exists. There is, however, a problem of public perception. I mean, cars driving around on their own? What about "sense and avoid"? Won't they just mow down all of the slow moving children, elderly and small furry mammals that cross our streets? Well, actually, I can't imagine it getting distracted, being half asleep or being clamped to a mobile phone (like seemingly half of all the drivers I pass in my new homeland). So why not?
So I was very interested to read David Learmount's post about The lonely airline pilot . As manufacturers like Embraer consider the future of single pilot cockpits and remotely or even optionally piloted aircraft are already with us, what will people think of more automated air travel? Irrespective of the fact that the autopilot already automates large potions of the flight, who would be comfortable if there weren't two people watching it, vigilantly?
To be fair, the idea of being the only person locked into the front of an aircraft for hours at a time doesn't fill me full of the joy of flying. I can't see that it would make for a great recruitment drive. At least with two you can have animated discussions about what's going on in your lives, like, er, the latest crew scheduling.
How about no pilots at all then? Even though I can see much merit in having a NASA style control room, filled full of the brightest and the best, controlling the aircraft should things ever go wrong, I just have to wonder who it was that held my life in his hands whilst he nipped down the hall to the drinks machine for a quick coffee flavoured beverage and a Kitkat.