When the gen­eral pub­lic dis­like a par­tic­u­lar idea but the spin doc­tors want to push that bar­row, it’s in­ter­est­ing how they change the ter­mi­nol­ogy to make it sound bet­ter and hope­fully more ac­cept­able.

I am re­fer­ring to ‘ Driver­less’ ve­hi­cles which seem to be pushed upon us un­der the guise of road safety. It seems that peo­ple didn’t take too kindly to the idea of driver­less ve­hi­cles so they now call them ‘Au­ton­o­mous’ ve­hi­cles which doesn’t sound as bad or risky.

I am pretty sure most of us drive off road for the en­joy­ment and sat­is­fac­tion of en­hanc­ing our own driv­ing skills over vary­ing ter­rain and don’t rel­ish the thought that tech­nol­ogy is go­ing to take the en­joy­ment away from us.

Also I bet that you also like ‘ driv­ing’ on road and wouldn’t be so keen on be­ing ‘ driven’ by an au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle. In fact I have yet to meet any­one who is in favour of the age of driver­less ve­hi­cles, cer­tainly not young kids from back in the mid- 80s.

Many years ago I was out with a work col­league and his young son get­ting a cou­ple of Christ­mas trees for our­selves and the of­fice. We got talk­ing about the Knight In­dus­tries Two Thou­sand car oth­er­wise known as KITT from the TV se­ries Knight Rider.

I said my then Se­ries II Land Rover was just like KITT and could drive on its own and promptly left it in low 1st and stepped out and walked along­side with the door open. The poor kid im­me­di­ately cried and was most up­set at my ‘au­ton­o­mous’ Land Rover. I doubt he will have changed his think­ing even now.

There are even man­u­fac­tur­ers de­vel­op­ing pro­to­types to in­clude off-road driv­ing, in­clud­ing Land Rover. It is good to see Land Rover ahead in the tech­nol­ogy stakes, but I do not like the idea one bit, es­pe­cially as mil­lions of dol­lars are be­ing spent on de­vel­op­ing tech­nol­ogy that peo­ple do not want.

One of the new tech­nol­ogy ad­vances they are mak­ing for off road driver­less ve­hi­cles is ‘Off road Con­nected Con­voy’ when driver­less ve­hi­cles in con­voy com­mu­ni­cate be­tween each other in an off road set­ting. “if a ve­hi­cle drops

a wheel in a rut, the in­for­ma­tion is sent to all cars in the con­voy”. Makes you won­der how we ever man­aged with just eyes, ears and com­mon sense?

Ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­tur­ers of au­ton­o­mous tech­nol­ogy are pre­dict­ing that they will have such ve­hi­cles avail­able within four to five years, if not sooner. These ve­hi­cles will not have steer­ing or ped­als, there­fore a hu­man can­not take over con­trol, although there may be some which are termed semi-au­ton­o­mous which may have these con­trols.

There are even re­ports that test­ing of au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles will soon take place in New Zealand and a par­tic­u­lar ad­van­tage of test­ing au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles in New Zealand is that our leg­is­la­tion does not ex­plic­itly re­quire a ve­hi­cle to have a driver present for it to be used on the road. Ac­cord­ing to our own Min­istry of Trans­port, “So long as any test­ing is car­ried out safely, a truly driver­less ve­hi­cle may be tested on pub­lic roads to­day”.

Ap­par­ently no spe­cial in­fra­struc­ture is re­quired, but I do won­der how they will get on at con­trolled in­ter­sec­tions and the traf­fic lights; Who pays the fine when an Au­ton­o­mous car runs a red light?

An­other soap box I detest is that of elec­tric cars and that they are sup­pos­edly ‘emis­sions free’ with own­ers and op­er­a­tors avoid­ing pay­ing their share of road user charges. For diesel ve­hi­cles you have to pay a fee, in ad­vance, based on the num­ber of kilo­me­tres trav­elled and with petrol, the fee is built into the taxes we pay at the pump. But for elec­tric cars

they avoid these costs and also have charg­ing sta­tions in the city where they can ‘plug in’ for free while they go for their lat­tes.

It cer­tainly has been the case in Bri­tain that elec­tric car users got free elec­tric­ity but now they are be­ing charged a flat fee to top up, which seems to be more costly than a gal­lon of petrol for a small eco­nom­i­cal car based on how far it can travel for that cost.

When you con­sider that pro­duc­ing elec­tric­ity ac­tu­ally costs in the build­ing of wind tur­bines for so called re­new­able en­ergy and that in the case of many for­eign coun­tries that build these elec­tric cars they rely on nu­clear power or burn­ing coal and gas to pro­duce elec­tric­ity, the elec­tric car is not very emis­sion-friendly af­ter all. And then what hap­pens to the bat­ter­ies when they come to their end of life? Just some­thing else to throw in the land­fill.

For me I have al­ways had the en­joy­ment of driv­ing, both on road and off road and I am not about to lose this plea­sure be­cause some re­searcher/ de­vel­oper has to jus­tify his ex­is­tence.

I will con­tinue to drive off road us­ing the skills and tech­niques I have learnt over the nearly 40 years of driv­ing off road. They will con­tinue to get me away from the has­sles of the built up ar­eas and into the scenic and won­der­ful back coun­try ar­eas we have in God’s own coun­try and for which we pride our­selves on.

En­joy your sum­mer four wheel­ing, while you can.

Where’s the fun or chal­lenge in a driver­less ve­hi­cle?

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