Tomorrow morning in 2020
By decade’s end, switched-on commuters will be rolling this way
IT’S 7.35am and the smartphone buzzes. It’s not the wake-up alarm but an alert that traffic is peaking on my route to work.
Based on the car-to-car communication (and the number of vehicles in my area the system predicts will join the throng in the next 15 minutes), it’s time to hit the road if I hope to make work on time.
The car starts its warm-up routine as I finish the coffee: pre-heating the fluids for the internal combustion engine and, depending on the temperature, setting the airconditioning to my preferred temperature.
Alongside it, the daughter’s electro-mobile is inert. She stays over every three or four nights, ostensibly to visit the olds but in reality to tap into my power and keep her car fully ‘‘ fuelled’’. Gotta love kids.
She’s also still in the shower, knowing she can access the express lane reserved for automated cars. There are only a few trial routes at the moment but I— along with most nongen Y motorists who refuse to cede control of the steering wheel— already resent paying for her to motor on bitumen I bought but can’t use.
In the car I pocket the phone and slide the tablet into the dash. The newspaper display is replaced by my favourite apps and the article I was reading on the way out is now read out to me through the premium speaker package.
‘‘ Music,’’ I tell the car and it responds by resuming the soundtrack I was listening to when I pulled up yesterday.
Selecting reverse gear displays a virtual overhead view of the car— the image is a 3D projection from cameras mounted on the sides and ends of the vehicle— and shows my son has left the golf bag lying behind the car. It’s on its side, so the bumper-mounted reversing sensors wouldn’t have detected it.
They’re my clubs, so I tell the car to snapshot the screen image and forward it to his email. He’ll be suitably contrite — and do it again after next week’s round.
Having engaged the email software, I’mhit with overnight e-deluge once I’ve starting forward motion. I brush away— literally— the first few, where the sender and subject matter are shown on the heads-up display. The fourth is from the boss and can’t be waved off; the system pauses to ensure I want it, then drops the music to background ambience and narrates the latest missive.
On the highway the traffic is a steady 40km/h. The car-tocar network and infrastructure embedded in the road advises the left lane is closed 5km ahead as a result of an accident — an older car lacking the automated emergency braking software fitted to modern vehicles has rear-ended another.
A kay out from the crash the system beeps with increasing stridence until I go to move out of the affected lane. The side mirror’s clear but the blindspot warning light in it alerts me to the fact there’s a car just behind me in the next lane.
The software in the vehicles sync, and his system issues a ‘‘ merging car’’ audio warning. As a result, he slows down marginally to let me in. Miracles will never cease.
The software in my car also temporarily disables the lane departure warning— so the wheel doesn’t vibrate or the inside wheel brake to put me back on the straight and narrow— because it knows what I’m doing despite the fact I haven’t turned the steering wheel hard enough for it to officially recognise it as an intentional lane change.
It’s then I— briefly— see Ms Duff breezing past in the far right lane at 130km/h, oblivious to the drivers as she chats with her friend. It’s a requirement of the express lane that all the seats be occupied (that’s why I’mpaying for a two-seat coupe) to minimise congestion.
Welcome to the future. It’s just 10 years from now.