The Rise of Alternate Energy depends on Autonomous Technology?

Could the springboard for alternate power be the autonomous technology of the future? We take a dive into the prediction to see if there's fact in the theory.

What would you say if someone asked you what you thought the roads of 2046 would look like? With recent advances in technology, it’s fairly safe to assume that many people will conjure up romantic thoughts of completely environmentally clean vehicles pottering around autonomously whilst their occupants enjoy television with friends, catch up on work or gain that little bit of extra sleep before hitting the office. 

There’s a subtle point in that vision of the future - we always seem to imagine that the driverless cars of the future utilise a power source that isn’t the traditional petrol, diesel or hybrid power of today – when was the last time you imagined an autonomous car with a raging 5-litre V8? 

It seems relatively excessive to have a performance engine in a vehicle that will never be enjoyed in what we consider the traditional sense of ‘driving enjoyment’. For that very reason, could the rise of autonomy also see the rise of alternative energy sources?

At current, there is still a certain stigma around alternative energies and their ability to offer a pure driving experience whilst you’re behind the wheel. However, in a future ruled by autonomous vehicles, would we be overly concerned what source of power was propelling us along? 

Possibly the best modern example of this thinking will have been experienced by anyone who has ever been on a train – when you sat down, did it even cross your mind whether the train handled well or whether it was powered by electricity, diesel or even hamsters? Herein lays the thinking that, climbing into your self-driving pod after a tiring Monday at work, heading towards the unavoidable rush hour traffic jams, do you even think about the energy source that is pushing you home.

Exploring this thinking further, the removal of drivers in the traditional sense could also see handling characteristics rendered null and void. Without humans at the wheel, a car’s ability to handle a corner or the way in which it accelerates off the line would no longer be critiqued. Would the subsequent effect of this be that scientists and automotive manufacturers gain almost free reign as to what energy sources they investigate and use. The need for driving performance and pure driving feel removed, an engine can be created solely to offer economy and the remaining vehicle created to offer nothing but comfort and technology.

Whilst there is logic in the above, this thinking assumes that the masses utilise autonomous cars and therefore doesn’t consider those who regard driving as a hobby. Regardless of the extent to which autonomous cars become ‘the norm’, it seems sensible to assume that there will always be cars that aim to give the best driving experience possible. We like to think that there will always be purists who concern themselves entirely with traditional driving and the feel of a car – therefore meaning that there will always be a need for performance cars in some capacity.

Looking at this from another viewpoint, with the masses commuting through the use of alternate energy autonomous vehicles, could we see the calibre of performance cars increase tenfold?

When you consider that driverless cars will be continually communicating with each other to ensure occupant safety, it seems that at some point (on certain roads at least) cars that require a driver will be banned for safety reasons. 

If we take this to the extreme and imagine that in 2046 all non-autonomous cars are banned, specific road ways or even race tracks would need to have been established for those who are passionate about the art of driving. Subsequently, this would mean that cars created solely for the enjoyment of driving would no longer have to concern themselves with the daily commute or the burden of road legalities and - thanks to reduced pollution through the masses using alternate energy sources - could utilise more traditional fuel methods.

Does this ultimately mean that the rise of autonomous vehicles and alternative energy could actually lead to a new breed of performance based vehicles that revolutionise the term ‘Sunday Drive’? With manufacturers no longer limited by rules and regulations, it seems entirely possible – just look at Ferrari’s XX Programme and McLaren’s GTR Programme.

With technology changing almost every hour, it is very difficult to really try to predict what the future could hold. We’d like to know your thoughts however - Do you agree that autonomous cars could be the catalyst for alternative energy or do you think no catalyst is needed? Is autonomy really the future?

Written by Dan Jones | 16.09.16

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