A motoring underclass?
Pearson also touches on a less-utopian vision of our motoring future. In some respects, we already have a class system on our roads. Those with enough money can buy newer, safer cars, pay for access to less-congested toll roads and buy Traffic Message Channel (TMC) sat-nav or Trafficmaster systems, which redirect you around jams.
Technology could widen this rift between the motoring classes, with dedicated high-speed lanes reserved for cars with automated systems. The rest may have to grit their teeth and watch them whizz by.
Adaptive cruise control
Toyota and Lexus
Adaptive Cruise Control
Speed range 0-113mph
Standard on some Lexus IS, GS and LS models. Optional on other Lexus models and the new Toyota Avensis
We tried this out on a Lexus LS 600h, which gets the system as standard, and were impressed with the set-up when it worked. It was smoother than the Mercedes Distronic Plus system that we also tested (above), and the dashboard display showed when the brake lights were on.
However, it did get a major black mark the system failed to pick up a lorry ahead of us during our testing, so we had to use the brakes to avoid a collision with it.
Speed range 0-124mph
Available on S- and CL-Class
Not bad, but this system kept cancelling itself during testing. We tried Distronic Plus in an S-Class and found that it was jerkier than the Lexus system when slowing down and speeding up. Once you've stopped, you need to dab the throttle to get the car moving again.
Lane Keeping Assist System
Packaged with Adaptive Cruise Control and Collision Mitigation Braking on Legend; some Accords
Honda's system will gently steer the car to keep it in the centre of the lane. When the system worked in our Accord, it was great, but it didn't always recognise the lane.