To­mor­row morn­ing in 2020

By decade’s end, switched-on com­muters will be rolling this way

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Cover Story - CRAIG DUFF craig.duff@cars­

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.

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