DEC 14th 2015

Mystery Monday – I Don't Want A Driverless Car

Mystery MondayEdmund King is President of the AA and Visiting Professor of Transport at Newcastle University. He drives a 911 and rides a Whyte E120 mountain bike. He tweets about anything Edmund King on Twitter





Don’t you get depressed with all this talk about driverless cars? If I wanted a driverless car I would take the train or call a cab.

On Track LaFerrari McLaren 250 GTO

Ever since the age of seven I wanted to drive a car. For a while as a kid we lived next-door-but-one to Colin Chapman of Lotus Cars fame. I used to love seeing and hearing the array of Elans, Europas and Lotus Cortinas racing by. I would secretly take my mother’s keys to her ancient Ford Prefect and drive the ten yards from the garage to the drive and back pretending it was a Lotus. I used to sit in my dad’s Citroen DS and dream I was on the open road.

We used to hang out with some farm kids, not because we loved animals, but because they had an old Austin we could drive on the farm land. I flirted with Lambrettas for a while as my older sister went out with a mod but my true love was cars.

I couldn’t wait to be 17. I worked Saturdays in an electrical shop just to save up the £2.50 per day to buy a car. When I was sixteen and a half I spotted an advertisement for a Mini Traveller for £55 in a newsagent’s window. I managed to haggle the elderly owner down to £45 and the car was mine. I then had 6 months to do up the car up before I could legally drive it on the roads. The first job was clearing the moss from the wooden frame and then I spent every spare hour making it my own. A sister’s boyfriend who worked at British Leyland helped out with some of the parts and labour. On my 17th birthday the L plates switched from my mum’s Hillman Avenger to my Mini Traveller.

Mini Traveller

Taking lessons with my dad, first starting out at the disused Enstone airfield, took some patience from me and I guess from him. Passing my test was one of the best days of my life. Now I could venture out in my car, when and where I wanted… well, within reason. This did bring great freedom but also much pride and joy. Sometimes I just liked to drive to the Rolling Stones on my own – because I could. After studying really hard for my A-levels it was sometimes just light relief to go for a spin.

Since then I have loved all the cars I have owned from the remarkably slow Citroen Dyane 4 to the pretty quick Maserati Biturbo with various MGs, Sciroccos, Mercedes and yes a Vovo V70 T5 in between. So having owned and driven all those great cars why would I want to give in all up to sit in a driverless car?

Just the other week a driverless Google car was stopped in the States for driving too slowly. Now I don’t want to be a Luddite and realise that many of the technological advances incorporated into the driverless technology will help save lives. I’m all for autonomous emergency braking, lane assist, park assist etc but please don’t ask me to take my hands off the wheel.

This image provided by Google shows a very early version of Google's prototype self-driving car. The two-seater won't be sold publicly, but Google on Tuesday, May 27, 2014 said it hopes by this time next year, 100 prototypes will be on public roads. (AP Photo/Google)

I’m not alone here. Only around one in 10 (12%) of 23,450 AA members responding to an AA-Populus poll said they can’t wait to take their hands off the wheel of a driverless car, but that sentiment rises to 16% for drivers in the 25-34 age group and 15% among 18-24 year olds. The vast majority are still with me although the xbox generation seem more likely to embrace driverless cars than my Mini (original Mini) generation.

So don’t expect to see me crusing up the M1 with my hands off the wheel anytime soon.

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