Simon Calder, also known as The Man Who Pays His Way, has been writing about travel for The Independent since 1994. In his weekly opinion column, he explores a travel issue. important – and what it means to you.
Of all the forms of motor transport, driving is my least favorite. I’m not very good at it. I have a license that has remained miraculously clean for decades, largely because I tend to only drive once every few years.
Most of the time I drive under circumstances where it’s almost mandatory to rent a car – mostly in less populated areas of the US, where the concept of public transportation doesn’t seem to appear to the authorities.
This week, an automotive charity launched a campaign to force 85-year-olds lucky enough to take a second driving test. lower propensity to use illegal drugs. But their reflexes and vision may have eroded over the years.
Currently, it is the responsibility of drivers 70 years of age or older (and more than 500 people over the age of 100) to self-assess and report any deficiencies. A second test will certainly reduce the risk. But how much better it would be when cars had the right amount of autonomy – and transporting people of all ages much safer than they could possibly drive.
One month from now, Scotland will lead the way. From 15 May 2023, a fleet of five Stagecoach buses will begin running through the Firth of Forth between the Edinburgh Park Transport Interchange and Ferry Park and Go Outside Inverkeithing. While neither location could be described as aesthetically pleasing to match great transport terminus such as St Pancras station in London or the harbor in Rhodes, single-decker vehicles would across the magnificent Forth Road Bridge.
At that point, I hope the “Safe Driver” in the front seat will be able to pause the tech tracking and look out the window. He or she can take in the wavy shoreline that separates the Lothians from the Kingdom of Fife, as well as the even more magnificent Forth Bridge that carries the railway northward. You can’t (or shouldn’t) do that when you’re driving for real.
The project is called CAVForth. It is running two years behind. But I predict bus service will quickly become Forth Hands-Free and accepted as an efficient form of transportation: departing every 20 minutes, speeds up to 50 mph, and continuing trains Follow from Edinburgh Park to the city center in 10 minutes or less.
I trust the technology a lot more – including sensors to detect other road users and software to change speed and direction – than I trust my driving.
Public and official acceptance of autonomous cars is accelerating. Ford has just received government permission to enable BlueCruise self-driving technology. You’ll need to be at the helm of the £50,000 Ford Mustang Mach-E electric car, but once on the motorway you can take your hands off the said wheel – and your foot off the pedals. Five radars track the position and speed of other vehicles, while a forward-facing camera detects road markings and speed signs. That’s more than I can manage.
Give me BlueCruise on a human any day. The roads on this planet are extremely dangerous, an average of one person dies every 23 seconds somewhere in the world. By contrast, the aviation industry is extremely safe, with a worldwide average of one death every two days last year. Agreed, much of aviation safety stems from human-designed and implemented control systems. But the aviation industry has also embraced technology to protect humanity. I can’t wait to get on board the Forth Hands-Free – and, soon, to take a plane vacation to the US that I don’t need to fly.