How will we travel in years to come?

Glass’s Rupert Pontin looks at the question of how we might travel in years to come and how it tends to provoke a multitude of fascinating responses depending on the people invited to comment and also the time period in question.

Autonomous vehicles have long been a part of our society in controlled environments such as airport shuttles and trains, but what we are talking about here is relinquishing control of a car or bus that is not contained within measured pathways or confined to rails.

There is a control aspect to almost every human being that immediately finds this a virtually unacceptable suggestion, but the reality is that in certain environments we are already close to allowing this to happen.

We already have driverless cars testing on the roads in the UK and this is all part of ensuring that the technology is robust enough to safely allow passengers inside.

How will this new technology affect the car market and specifically from an ownership point of view, bearing in mind that we are already seeing the beginnings of change in purchasing and ownership. Purchasing decisions are made online and are based heavily on a few key items, with the view that they will never own the car. As time goes by it is also likely that the first true private owner of this car may not be until the third user.

With an autonomous vehicle it is likely that the ownership model for many will change once again. It may be that the manufacturer retains the ownership through the lifecycle of the car with the urban user or users leasing it either solely or as part of a consortium. It is also highly likely that the vehicle lifecycle will reduce drastically as a result. Whether this product ever comes to a second-hand market is a very debateable subject and that spells big changes. One also has to question whether we will see a complete change in how the automotive sector deals with second hand vehicles.

In summary, the UK market has some questions to ask and scenarios to answer when it comes to Autonomous vehicles. With the Government putting £100m into developing this sector of the market in the latest budget, and Google’s director of vehicles adamant that his 11 year old son will not need to get a driving licence, the beginning of the Autonomous car era is clearly not that far away. The key factors here are that the UK automotive industry is part of the change and that the trade is prepared for not only a new propulsion method but also a new control technology.