Driverless cars have had their first public trial in the UK, and are said to have risen to the challenge.
The test took place in Milton Keynes. There will be many more such tests before driverless cars are a feature on UK roads. But technology in cars is moving steadily forward.
Electric cars are still a rarity in Northern Ireland, but are much less so in California, where there is significant demand for vehicles such as the Telsa Model 3 (The United States has more than 500,000 plug-in cars and California has around 10,000 charging points for such vehicles). Driverless cars are set to be the next big trend after electric cars.
There is likely to be a considerable psychological barrier to overcome before the general public will accept the widespread appearance of electric cars. The idea of a computer in control of something as potentially deadly as a heavy motor car raises fears it might malfunction, and is unable to stop or respond to a problem in the way that a computer can do.
But it is already becoming apparent that such vehicles will be ultimately be more accurate and reliable than humans.
It could even be that they one day come almost to eliminate the overwhelming bulk of road fatalities, except such unforeseeable situations as a person suddenly falling or running out in front of a car’s path.
Even if safety is not proven, there will be some reticence about driverless cars, given how much many people enjoy driving. Nonetheless, this is exciting technology that is rightly being pushed to the limit and then rigorously tested.
The advent of the motor car a century ago was a major step forward for mankind, that has been embraced around the world. It greatly enhanced people’s sense of liberty.
But it came with huge environmental and safety consequences, that cause huge damage. Now scientists are seeking to maintain the benefits of cars while eradicating the side effects, and that is to be celebrated.