There seems to be a sense of fear among petrol heads whenever the topic of autonomy is raised. Fear of handing control over to computers coupled with an overwhelming love of driving - and the dash of hubris that humans are as good as a driver can get - makes the idea of handing over control scary.
But, speaking to CarAdvice at the International Driverless Vehicle Summit in Adelaide, the director of autonomous mobility programmes at mobility firm Aurrigo, Dr Richard Fairchild, suggested autonomy could do good things for car enthusiasts.
"I’ll tell you my personal point of view. I drive a 500-mile round trip every single week - it’s 200 miles there and 200 miles back, and then 100 miles of driving in between - without fail, every week," Fairchild said. The fast-talking Brit was in high demand throughout the summit, and likens the current period in motoring to the transition between horse-drawn and motorised transport at the turn of the century.
"And if I could have an autonomous vehicle take me from my house to my workplace in that 200 miles – that’s nearly a four-hour journey in bad traffic – then that would be fantastic. Currently, I own a big, diesel car because it’s efficient and it’s comfortable."
"Driving on a motorway - it doesn’t matter if you’re in Australia, if you’re in New York or wherever, or if you’re driving in the roads of the UK - it is dull."
"It is dull, it is boring and even the most competent, most enigmatic driver will say ‘yeah, motorways are a bit boring."
Hand that boring driving over to an autonomous vehicle, and all of a sudden the practical considerations that go into buying a car – fuel efficiency, space – are changed. If you didn't need to worry about the weekly commute, what would you buy?
"My big thing is ‘you take me to work so I don’t have to drive, and I’m going to sell my car and buy a Porsche, or a Ferrari… well, maybe a Porsche," Fairchild said with a smile. "Probably a 15-year-old one at that."
Above: What would an autonomous driving engineer drive?
Reports out of the UK suggest drivers in London will spend 32 hours per year sitting in traffic, while TomTom says Melburnians waste up to 30 minutes a day on the roads because of congestion. Greater automation has already made this tedious task less taxing, with stop-and-go cruise and lane-keeping systems, but Level 4 or 5 automated vehicles could go further.
Highway driving isn't the only type of frustrating driving that autonomy could take off our hands.
As towns start to consider, or, in some cases, legislate to ban cars from their centre in a bid to lower air pollution levels, and greater congestion makes it harder to drive downtown, last-mile pods are set to link city centres with park-and-ride or public transport hubs.
"You get in an M1-class car (no more than eight seats in addition to the driver seat, ie. most passenger cars) and it takes you from your house, and it takes you to a park-and-ride type zone outside the city," Fairchild suggested.
"And then you get a pod in the city, because the city don’t want cars clogging up their city. Also, they don’t want the pollution – maybe an M1 car might still be an internal combustion type vehicle."
"Then you use the pod to get around the city from the park-and-ride areas. Suddenly, you can start to ban all motorised... vehicles inside the city."
"You can legislate clean vehicles really easy, and then you can start to reclaim space. Suddenly, there’s more space for cycling, and more space for walking, and more space for sitting outside and enjoying your city."