Cars as services, not possessions?

This morning’s Observer column.

We now know that the implications of the driverless cars’ safety record were not lost on Google either. Last week the company rolled out its latest variation on the autonomous vehicle theme. This is a two-seater, pod-like vehicle which scoots around on small wheels. It looks, in fact, like something out of the Enid Blyton Noddy stories. The promotional video shows a cheery group of baby-boomers summoning these mobile pods using smartphones. The pods whizz up obligingly and stop politely, waiting to be boarded. The folks get in, fasten their seatbelts and look around for steering wheel, gear shift, brake pedals etc.

And then we come to the punchline: none of these things exist on the pod! Instead there are two buttons, one marked “Start” and the other marked “Stop”. There is also a horizontal computer screen which doubtless enables these brave new motorists to conduct Google searches while on the move. The implications are starkly clear: Google has decided that the safest things to do is to eliminate the human driver altogether.

At this point it would be only, er, human to bristle at the temerity of these geeks. Who do they think they are?

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