Why driverless cars will be the end of an era

Driving force: UK Autodrive is testing self-driving cars, as well as pods which travel along pavements. © Getty

Has your family bought its last car? According to BBC journalist Justin Rowlatt, the answer maybe yes. He argues that electric, self-driving vehicles will soon make owning cars pointless.

What’s happening

Journalist Justin Rowlatt argues that three important trends are accelerating at once — and that they spell a revolution for car owners.

1. Taxi apps like Uber are getting more popular. 2. Electric cars are replacing petrol engines. 3. Self-driving cars are almost ready for the roads.

Find out more

Put those all together, and you get a fleet of autonomous, electric taxis which can be called at the click of a button. In theory, using these to get around would be cheaper, safer and greener than owning your own car.

That is because electric cars burn less fossil fuels, while ride-sharing would mean fewer cars were in use. (After all, when everyone has their own car, they are parked 95% of the time.)

Meanwhile, the UK Government has said it hopes to approve the first, fully self-driving car in three years’ time.

A scheme called Autodrive has been testing self-driving cars in Milton Keynes and Coventry since 2015. Its director recently told Wired magazine that “the time for trialling is slowly coming to an end”.

Has your family bought its last car?

Some say…

Probably! Globally, over 1.25 million people die in car accidents ever year. Self-driving cars will be much safer, especially as they become more common — they could end up saving hundreds of thousands of lives. If they are also cheaper and better for the environment, they will quickly replace our current system. Where is the downside?

Others think…

This is forgetting one crucially important thing: people love to drive. For around 100 years, cars have been a symbol of freedom and choice. You can use them to go anywhere, at your own speed, choosing your own route along the way. Self-driving taxis will suck all the fun out of driving. People will not give up their cars without a fight.

You Decide

  1. Would you trust a self-driving car to keep you safe?

Activities

  1. Currently, 1.25 million people die in car accidents each year. If self-driving cars reduce that number by 10%, how many lives will be saved?

Some People Say...

“The way I drive, the way I handle a car, is an expression of my inner feelings.”

Lewis Hamilton, British racing driver

What do you think?

Word Watch

Accelerating
Getting faster (both in a car, and in general).
Revolution
When one system is very quickly replaced by another.
Autonomous
Independent. When it comes to cars, this is another word for “self-driving”.
Greener
More environmentally friendly.
Fossil fuels
Fuels like coal and gas which have formed over thousands of years.
Trialling
Testing.
Globally
Worldwide.
Crucially
Key to making a decision.

Subjects

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