I’ve wanted a car that drives itself ever since I first watched Knightrider. What child of the 1980s didn’t grow up hoping that by the time they turned 17 a real-life version of K.I.T.T. would be on the market. Well, this weekend I turn 30 and that hope is still not a reality some 13 years later.
But, there could be a glimmer of hope on the techno-horizon with the announcement on Friday that Nokia is teaming up with Renault to co-brand the firm’s Twingo cars and pack them with a Nokia navigation system and handsfree equipment.
Sure, it doesn’t mean the vehicle will take you for a ride but I reckon this is the first shoots of what we’ve all been dreaming of. Sales of in-car satellite-navigation whether built-in or via portable devices from the likes of Garmin and TomTom have exploded in the past couple of years. Prices have gone through the floor and they have become far more affordable.
Pairing that up to a motor so it can actually turn the wheels and tell it where to go can’t be that far off, can it?
I mean, computers can do anything these days! Just think of the problems it would solve. No longer would men have an excuse to moan that women can’t find their way or read a map – which personally I’ve always thought to be a pointless accusation.
But imagine being driven home late at night without the need for a chauffeur. Or sitting back and reading a magazine at the wheel while the car takes the strain on a long motorway drive.
Imagine further some more tie-ups between technology firms and car manufacturers. How long before Sony or Microsoft do a deal to roll out their Gran Turismo or Project Gotham racing games to be played using the car’s real steering wheel with the picture projected onto the windscreen. We already have TVs in many vehicles now so it’s not that big a stretch.
Or for our friends over at Shiny Shiny, an automated make-up system from the likes of Estee Lauder that gives its driver a quick spit and polish while waiting at the lights. Cadburys could fit vending machines where the glove box is to provide on demand chocolate to snack on while Silent Night might well win a contract to turn the backseat into a bed at the push of a button, it could well be more comfortable than a stopover at a budget hotel at the side of the motorway.
Ok, maybe I’m getting a bit silly now but car technology is the one area of life that’s yet to be fully exploited considering how often we are in them and how important they are to the weekly grind. The sky surely is the limit – in fact, maybe times have moved on from K.I.T.T – I’d happily skip that step if it means going straight to Mr and Mrs Jetson’s flying car!
Jonathan Weinberg is a technology journalist who loves driving but hates traffic jams. He has a good sense of direction and unlike Tony Blair, does have a reverse gear!