The future of cars: the big-business view

24 May 2006

Big-name, big-bucks business consultancy Deloitte has put some of its overpaid MBAs to work on wondering what the future might be like in 2010. But they haven’t exactly strained their precognitive frontal lobes – 2010 is only three and a half years away after all.

“A typical day in 2010 is unlikely to feel much different to today,” the firm's Eye to the Future report says, unsurprisingly. “We will probably not be teleporting breakfast or using quantum computers, nor will we be watching holographic TV or travelling to work in flying cars.”

But it does get a bit more informative as it goes on. The state-of-the-art car in 2010 “is likely to assist the driver by undertaking such tasks as: giving directions, controlling headlamps and windshield wipers, muting audio system when a phone call is received and guiding parking. However, it may also be undertaking more critical activities such as: regulating distance from the car in front, steering the car when it drifts out of lane and moderating speed when approaching an accident black spot.”

All of the above will be familiar stuff to regular Auto IT readers (both of you).

Deloitte does have something to say, though: “[All] this may not necessarily mean that road travel will be safer. Safety innovations can give rise to a false sense of security, and may lead drivers to take greater risks. Furthermore, the growing number of warnings and alerts issued by these systems may well create additional driver distractions.”

The false sense of security argument seems valid – drivers tend to underestimate available grip for braking on a dry road but overestimate grip in the wet and severely overestimate it when snow or ice is around. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that these dangerous overestimates are made worse when drivers assume that ABS systems will allow them to stop more quickly in difficult conditions. ABS can help but it can't, of course, magic-up grip from a sheet of ice.

In a similar vein, Deloitte predicts that the average driver of 2010 will be a grunting caveman when presented with a paper map, due to the growing reliance on in-car navigation systems.

Auto IT would add that congestion may have worsened by 2010, as satnav systems will disrupt the traffic management measures so carefully put in place by town planners. For example, drivers following road-signs are invariably shunted onto long-way-round bypasses and ring-roads, away from town, village and city centres, whereas TomTom-equipped drivers tend to ignore road-signs and take the direct route even if it is likely to clutter up the high street.

Back to the report: company car drivers can look forward to choosing a vehicle based on its suitability as a mobile office (rather than its ability to be steered with the knees, presumably). “Desired features may include technology that can: read out incoming emails to the driver; allow the driver to dictate responses; permit the driver to set up meetings, update ‘to-do’ lists and write short memos.”

But the authors caution that again, there is a marked downside: “Already studies have shown that the use of hands-free telephones is no safer than using a regular mobile while driving, and concern is likely to grow about the safety of drivers that try to multitask.”

There’s a lot of this kind of material in the report. It provides a great synopsis, sadly little detail, and some helpful pointers to further info at the back. Download a PDF copy of the full thing from the Deloitte site.

Next » « Previous Home