One of television’s pioneers of technology journalism, Michael Rodd, has questioned whether drivers’ reluctance to hand over control to an autonomous vehicle might be an issue for the technology.
The former Tomorrow’s World presenter has written an article in the latest Smart Highways magazine – due out in time for Traffex 2017 – in which he says that, “Driving a desirable, powerful vehicle may be one of the few times in our lives when we feel as if we are really in control of something. Reluctance to change will always be a barrier to potentially beneficial innovation.”
Rodd rode in a prototype driverless vehicle for the programme in 1981 (pictured) and remembers, “[We were] at a location in eastern France, not far from the city of Mulhouse. Carrying a substantial amount of bulky, 70s style computer processing kit and the batteries to power it, the conventional Citroen saloon had also had to be modified to find room for all the extra mechanical power and linkage needed to handle all the controls the driver uses to steer and manage the car.
“There was precious little space left inside for me, the passenger – and of course we also had to find room for a very understanding camera operator, essential to capturing as complete a record as possible of what at the time felt like a very significant achievement. The demonstration was limited to a looping test track into which, as I remember, a wired guidance system had been laid. The car followed this, steering itself around the fixed course. It carried radar-like sensors at the front which called a halt to progress should any obstacle be encountered. Even moving at low speeds – around 15 kph – this was impressive, hands off motoring that felt completely unreal.”
In the article, Rodd discusses why it has taken so long for driverless vehicles to get to the advanced level of testing they are now. But he concludes with a positive note for those in the industry developing the technology, saying that, “We’ll get there of course – just as so much else in our lives is being changed, whether we like it or not, by the remarkable pace of technological advance. And we owe it all to the combined ingenuity of systems designers and the engineers who make it happen.”
(Picture: BBC/Tomorrow’s World)