The En­thu­si­ast

Land Rover Monthly - - Upfront - Gary Pusey

“The im­age of my 80 weav­ing through end­less streams of driverless ve­hi­cles makes me smile”

Will your Land Rover be on the road in 50 years’ time? Well, to be pre­cise, the ques­tion that came up at our lo­cal old car meet was whether my 1949 Se­ries I will be on the road in 2085, when it will be twice as old as it is now. And it set me think­ing. If the 80in is on the road, I won’t be in it, other than in spirit.

First off, you have to as­sume that suit­able fuel will still be avail­able, that the en­vi­ron­men­tal brigade hasn’t man­aged to get old cars banned, and the gov­ern­ment hasn’t de­clared them to be a dan­ger to the pub­lic and con­demned them all to a mu­seum. Or the scrap yard.

And, of course, you have to believe that driverless cars won’t have forced ev­ery car that needs a pi­lot to be con­signed to his­tory. Did you see the re­cent news­pa­per head­line, pre­dict­ing that there will be ten mil­lion self- driv­ing cars on the road by 2020? A re­mark­able sug­ges­tion, un­til you read the small print and learn that this is not ten mil­lion ve­hi­cles that can com­plete a jour­ney with­out any driver in­ter­ven­tion.

No, it is ten mil­lion cars that will have one or more features that al­low ac­cel­er­a­tion, brak­ing or steer­ing with­out any driver in­ter­ven­tion. Hav­ing grabbed our at­ten­tion with the head­line, the small print re­veals that driverless ve­hi­cles are ac­tu­ally a long way off be­cause of reg­u­la­tory and in­sur­ance is­sues. Nev­er­the­less, the cur­rent trend will cer­tainly con­tinue and, like all de­vel­op­ments in­volv­ing com­put­ing tech­nol­ogy, it will ac­cel­er­ate dra­mat­i­cally once the ba­sics have been per­fected.

Truly driverless ve­hi­cles will un­doubt­edly be re­al­ity long be­fore 2085. Whether cars with driv­ers will be al­lowed to in­ter­min­gle with them on the roads re­mains to be seen, but the im­age of my 80 weav­ing through end­less streams of driverless ve­hi­cles does make me smile!

In my view, the de­cid­ing fac­tor will be to do with safety. One well-re­garded con­sul­tancy is al­ready pre­dict­ing that self- driv­ing cars will lead to 2500 fewer road deaths in the UK be­tween now and 2030. Once the tech­nol­ogy is seen by our il­lus­tri­ous lead­ers to be safer than al­low­ing a mere hu­man to drive, the pres­sure to re­move the ve­hi­cles that still need a driver could be­come in­tense.

All of which might well mean that my old Se­ries I won’t be al­lowed to mix it on the road with the driverless stuff. But if fuel is avail­able, it will most cer­tainly be ca­pa­ble of be­ing driven, as will pretty much ev­ery ve­hi­cle built since the dawn of the mo­tor car, right the way through to the mid-1990s.

I say this be­cause there is noth­ing on my Se­ries I that can­not be sourced, recre­ated or re­man­u­fac­tured fairly eas­ily. As long as the skills to man­u­fac­ture an ig­ni­tion coil, for ex­am­ple, or build a ra­di­a­tor, or shape a wing panel, do not be­come ob­so­lete and dis­ap­pear, al­most ev­ery old car can be kept on the road.

It starts to get dif­fi­cult once we be­gin to see the ap­pear­ance of plas­tic mould­ings in car man­u­fac­tur­ing, but even this is not be­yond the wit of man given the in­cli­na­tion and the money. I have spo­ken to quite a few re­stor­ers of early Suf­fix A Range Rovers, for ex­am­ple, who have con­tem­plated in­vest­ing in the tool­ing to re­man­u­fac­ture the vac­uum-formed PVC seat mould­ings that are so much part of the char­ac­ter of th­ese early cars. That none has done so is prob­a­bly down to the fact that there haven’t been enough of us pre­pared to pay the in­evitably high cost of such re­pro­duc­tion seats. But it is the sheer scale of the com­put­ing tech­nol­ogy that be­gan to ap­pear in cars from the 1990s that is the real chal­lenge to their long-term sur­vival. It be­gan with ECUS to con­trol en­gine per­for­mance, but nowa­days al­most ev­ery­thing in your new Land Rover is com­puter-con­trolled. And that tech­nol­ogy will rapidly be­come out-of- date.

I did a quick Google: it is ap­par­ently not un­usual for mod­ern cars to have be­tween 25 and 50 mi­cro­pro­ces­sors con­trol­ling ev­ery­thing from en­gine emis­sions to brakes, trac­tion con­trol, air bags, air con, in-car en­ter­tain­ment, nav­i­ga­tion sys­tems, door locks, and ig­ni­tion, to say noth­ing of the tech­nol­ogy to let you see through your A-pil­lar. That’s an aw­ful lot to go wrong.

But I think we can say with rea­son­able cer­tainly that my Se­ries I, and pretty much all Land Rovers built be­fore the 1990s, will be ca­pa­ble of be­ing kept on the road in 50 years’ time, as­sum­ing fuel and leg­is­la­tion per­mit. I am not so sure your new Ve­lar (with 45 ECUS) will be in the same cat­e­gory and it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how much tech is em­bed­ded in the New Defender.

But there is another point of view. Op­ti­mists believe that in the fu­ture tech­nol­ogy will have ad­vanced to the ex­tent that a stan­dard mod­ule will be avail­able off-the-shelf that will pro­vide all the com­put­ing tech­nol­ogy needed for ev­ery car ever made. All you’ll have to do is plug-in and drive – un­less, of course, the mod­ule also does all the driv­ing for you.

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