Car 24/7, where are you?

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - News - RICHARD BLACK­BURN

IT’S the end of the car as we know it. The car in­dus­try is brac­ing for a not-too-dis­tant fu­ture when some cars won’t have en­gines, oth­ers won’t need driv­ers and thou­sands won’t be­long to in­di­vid­ual buy­ers.

Volk­swa­gen says its ID con­cept, a Golf-sized elec­tric- pow­ered hatch, may be­come the first of a new breed of cars peo­ple won’t buy.

“Young ur­ban­ites are say­ing good­bye to own­ing a car and re­defin­ing what mo­bil­ity means for them,” says VW Group chief ex­ec­u­tive Matthias Muller.

“In fu­ture, many peo­ple will no longer own a car. But they can all be a Volk­swa­gen cus­tomer in one way or an­other — be­cause we will serve a much broader con­cept of mo­bil­ity than is the case to­day,” he says.

Mercedes-Benz chair­man Dr Di­eter Zetsche says this could in­volve a self-driv­ing car pick­ing up your laun­dry while you’re at work, hav­ing parcels de­liv­ered to its boot, then pick­ing you up to go home.

The brand now has Europe’s largest ride-hail­ing ser­vice, with a fleet of elec­tric cars rack­ing up 35 mil­lion kilo­me­tres.

Zetsche says the next big step “with huge po­ten­tial” is peer-to-peer car shar­ing through a web­site sim­i­lar to the pop­u­lar home shar­ing site B2B. It al­ready has a pi­lot pro­gram in the US and will start an­other in Europe next month.

“Cars sit parked for nearly 23 hours a day on av­er­age. Why not use this time to earn some money for their own­ers?”

He en­vis­ages a set-up where you pho­to­graph your car, post it on­line and en­ter free dates and times. Thou­sands of on­line mem­bers then can un­lock and drive it us­ing a smart­phone app.

The mo­tor­ing rev­o­lu­tion won’t end there. Cars will share in­for­ma­tion, for ex­am­ple on free park­ing spa­ces and po­ten­tial haz­ards.

They’ll also be able to drive them­selves much sooner than some pre­dict. Audi board mem­ber Di­et­mar Voggen­re­iter says the new A8 due next year will han­dle the bumper-to­bumper com­mute while the driver, with hands free, reads or uses the smart­phone — pro­vided au­thor­i­ties al­low it.

The tech will work at up to 65km/h. On de­tect­ing a po­ten­tial haz­ard or emer­gency, the car alerts the driver, who then must take the wheel.

Voggen­re­iter says an au­tonomous car would be safer than one manned by a hu­man. “More than 90 per cent of ac­ci­dents are caused by hu­man faults so the fore­cast is ac­ci­dent num­ber would go down.”

That in turn would mean cheaper in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums and Audi would take le­gal re­spon­si­bil­ity for driver safety.

Mo­tor show pre­dic­tions are no­to­ri­ously op­ti­mistic but one thing is cer­tain: the car your chil­dren drive will be dras­ti­cally dif­fer­ent to the one you drive.

Peer-to-peer pool­ing the next step: Mercedes chief Di­eter Zetsche with Gen­er­a­tion EQ

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