Long-term view

* The future of driving * Safety and comfort systems * What will it cost the motorist?...

Long-term view

Long-term view
Ants aside, from 2030, Pearson sees cars rapidly becoming more automated, right up to the point where there's no need for us to drive them any longer.

Instead of owning these cars, we might simply dial up for one to take us to our destination before it goes to another job or goes to be charged up.

So could fleet companies end up being the next bus operators, with huge fleets of automated cars?

'I can't see any need for buses in this scenario,' Pearson says. 'Today's fleet management companies could become the public transport providers of the future, although they don't seem switched on to this possibility yet.'

Chris Chandler, a senior consultant with Lex Momentum, which aims to provide flexible fleet strategies for its clients, is a little sceptical on the idea: 'Demand would be colossal at the beginning and the end of the day, so would it be cost effective to have these cars running at 10% capacity?'

Chandler also doubts we'd want to give up our cars, and also wonders if the thorny issue of insurance liability for automated cars can also be sorted out.

What Car? says
Traffic jams and accidents are a frustrating and sometimes tragic part of our motoring world, but we are still firmly attached to our cars.

Most of us still get enjoyment and a huge sense of freedom from our cars.

In the short term, at least, it looks as if technology will help us to be safer and more efficient when driving, but it wont be taking over the reins yet. Youll still be driving a car for years to come.

We tried some of the safety technologies now available, to find out how well they work and if they're worth the cash.

**Automatic braking

Honda Collision Mitigation Braking System

Part of a package on some Accord, CR-V and Legend models 1713-2692**
Won't stop you completely, but if you're closing too quickly on the car in front, the radar-based system alerts you with flashing lights and bleeps. Do nothing and you'll feel a tug on the seatbelt. If you still don't react, the seatbelt yanks you back in the seat and the brakes are applied to reduce the impact speed. Failed to work at all on some occasions during our tests.

Click image for larger view**Volvo City Safety

Standard on all XC60 models**
A laser-based system that automatically applies the brakes if you're about to hit the car in front. It will stop you completely from speeds of up to 9mph, and significantly reduce the impact if you're doing less than 19mph. Worked every time we tested it.

**Volvo Collision Warning with Auto Brake

Optional on all XC60, V70, XC70 and S80 models
Works alongside the adaptive cruise control (included in the price) from over 19mph. If you're approaching the car in front too quickly, it will alert you with bleeps and flashing lights. If you don't react, the system will apply the brakes to slow the car down.

**Blind sport monitoring

Click image for larger viewVolvo BLIS Blind Spot Information System

Available on all models
Cameras on the door mirrors illuminate a warning light if another vehicle is in your blind spot. It's a good idea, but it's pricey and we found ourselves double-checking the road anyway.

**BMW Lane Change Warning

Standard on the 750i; 415 optional on all other 7 Series**
A radar on the rear of the car monitors traffic in adjacent lanes.
If there's something in your blind spot, a triangular symbol appears on the bottom of the corresponding door mirror.

**Speed limit recognition

BMW Speed Limit Display

Standard on the 750i; included with Lane Departure Warning (345) on the rest of the 7 Series range.
A camera near the rear-view mirror monitors traffic signs and the speed limit is shown on the instrument cluster or head-up display (if fitted). It did get the speed wrong a couple of times in testing.