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Why drive at all?

The UK government is doing much to encourage the next generation of cars. Electric Vehicles (EVs) attract substantial grants to make them more competitive and they get exemption from road tax. Hydrogen fuel cell cars are also gaining government backing, with joint government and industry bodies trying to establish a strategic plan for the development of a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure in advance of the roll out of fuel cell cars.

The UK government is doing much to encourage the next generation of cars. Electric Vehicles (EVs) attract substantial grants to make them more competitive and they get exemption from road tax. Hydrogen fuel cell cars are also gaining government backing, with joint government and industry bodies trying to establish a strategic plan for the development of a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure in advance of the roll out of fuel cell cars. Elsewhere in the world of transport, the government's £35 billion investment in the HS2 phase of the high speed rail network makes the EV car investment look frugal by comparison. Is this the way forward? A new development in California may lead the world of personal transport in a different direction.

In California, a group of the world's leading technologists are leading a project that could dramatically alter the way we travel in cars. They are busy developing driverless cars. Although to many it may all seem like science fiction, the project is already well underway. Search engine giant, Google, are part of the group and their driverless cars have already driven 400,000 miles without a single accident. Clearly this compares rather favourably with the average driver and the cars are already being made legal for public road use in some US states. They use existing technology, consisting of 360 degree sensors, lasers, learning algorithms and GPS to find their way around.

Why is this important? For a start, the development of driverless cars will create a new wave in car manufacturing and with the UK being a major car producer, it is vital that we are at the forefront of these developments. It will alter car design completely, making the cabin of cars more akin to a sitting room or even an office than today's cockpit style. Commuters' time will also become productive time, allowing work to be completed on high speed 4G internet links while the car takes care of the driving.

In addition to this personal productivity boost, our road network will become much more productive in terms of the traffic they can handle. Studies have shown that the driverless cars could increase capacity by as much as 500% as the automatic vehicles drive at optimum distances between each other and take the most efficient route on their journey. Accidents could drop by as much as 90% and the design of our roads would be far simpler, without the need for all that signage and extra capacity needed for human drivers. Perhaps Mr Cameron would do well to create a think tank to plot Britain's role in this exciting new technology.
 

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