One hundred years ago people imagined the 21th century as a technological utopia, a life made easy by machines and technology: flying cars, egg-breeding machines or house-cleaning robots. Our cars might not be able to fly yet, but we already made a huge step when it comes to innovating our mobility
At this year’s CES in Las Vegas one of the hottest novelties was the self-driving car. Audi, Nissan, Mercedes and BMW, they all presented partly or completely driverless vehicles. BMW’s i3 for instance is able to find a parking spot and park itself, a feature especially bad drivers and nervous wrecks will appreciate. But there’s more. Audi introduced an A7 which can drive autonomously on the highway and Nissan’s Leaf can even conquerw tricky city routes. Impressive, yes, but also a logical consequence of the progress in GPS mapping systems, cruise and lane control as well as automobile-specific sensors and cameras. Such a cutting-edge technology has the advantage of keeping the driver safe and to reduce the risk of accidents. Also, not having to focus constantly on the road brings along high comfort for the driver and the possibility to occupy oneself with other, more important matters.
So, apparently this is how it is is going to be like in the future: I will be sitting in a vehicle, probably with the chance to relax. But will I be able to do so? Because, thinking about it, I put my life into the hands of a machine. The absence of a steering wheel and pedals – and thus the impossibility of taking over control – is supposed to make me feel more comfortable? I might get used to it. But do I want to?
Mashable author Lance Ulanoff test-drove an autonomous Audi and even though he was amazed by the technology, he criticized the loss of experience and emotions. To me, he hits the nail on the head by asking “What will driving be to us when we’re not, in fact, driving?”
You will know by now that cars have taken on a different meaning for my generation. Ownership is by far less important to us. However, when it comes to driving it’s a different story. That certain feeling that comes with flooring the gas pedal, well, I for my part do enjoy it from time to time.
It has become clear that technologically speaking, we are not far from introducing the autonomous car, as it is already considered a useful innovation for our urban future. From an experiential perspective, however, travelling by car will always be about freedom, joy and fun – as long as you are driving it!