When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Spare me. As a card-carrying realist, dopey, twee statements like that one make me wanna puke. Mind you, seems to me that the universe is handing out more lemons than ever before, so maybe it’s time to give the concept some consideration. Or at least stick ’em in your gin. Maybe.
So here’s how I see things panning out. While I’m never going to be convinced that autonomous cars ever really will take over the job of transporting humanity, I am reasonably convinced that we can’t go on as were are. Regardless of what fuels our personal transport modules or even who or what actually pilots them, congestion is eventually going to rub the shine off the whole concept. (Like, it hasn’t already?)
At some point, driving a car with just you in it is going to smell worse than the horse-exhaust our Monaros and Mustangs replaced all those years ago. By then, of course, the idea of burning fossil fuel in a car will be even more on the bugle than those horsey-farts.
Which means we’re looking at an increase in mass transit. Okay, but just as cars won’t be fossil-fuelled, neither will the alternatives. Now, I’m no engineer, but when an electric car like a Nissan Leaf weighs about 25 per cent more than a Nissan Pulsar (batteries are heavy, okay) I have real doubts that air travel is going to switch to electrons in favour of Jet A1.
It’s hard to see how you could get an electric plane to perform at the same level as a jet engine at altitude, and range would have to be a problem. But even if that lot could be overcome, using the Nissan analogy, a 500-seat A380 Super Jumbo would become a 375-seater thanks to the reduced payload. Nope, air travel is destined to once again become a treat for the super-rich just as it once was.
Related: Autonomous car types explained
That leaves us with trains for the bulk of moving people and stuff. The good news is that super-fast electric trains are already a reality. But here’s where my brilliant plan comes in. We continue to build fast trains, but we also make it more fun AND make use of all those scrapped cars that nobody is brave enough to drive in public any more.
Instead of a conventional train carriage, we use flat-beds and bolt abandoned car bodies onto them, three to a car. That way, you get to travel from place to place, sitting in a Lancia Stratos or a Citroen 2CV or a Rolls-Royce Silver Shower. Or whatever takes your fancy. No, you can’t walk up and down the corridor like a conventional train, but with a fast train, no journey takes too long. And anyway, we manage to sit in cars now for hours at a stretch, right?
The experience can be enhanced by adding an electric steering-feedback generator and a soundbar in the back seat to reproduce an exhaust ‘note’ that’s matched to the train’s speed and acceleration (by satellite location). In fact, a synthesised steering feel and exhaust noise is already happening in production cars (not to mention simulators) so I’m not talking complete science fiction, am I?
Meanwhile, you’ll get some of the old driving-my-car experience by lowering the windows (interesting in a canvas-roofed 2CV at 400km/h) watching the dials and gauges and flipping the bird to the bloke in the car behind you.
Great idea? or Greatest idea? with MOTOR opinion
As time goes by, it’ll be an educational experience for young ’uns who missed the whole personal car experience by being born too late. Because everybody should experience how crap a Daewoo Nubira was. And by offering passengers a cabin of their own, you neatly get around the problem of being sat next to the weird-smelling guy who wants to talk Dungeons and Dragons with you.
Better than lemonade, eh? Might even give gin a run.