The car that drives itself is here - almost. But first Ford must finish developing its Traffic Jam Assist System. This enables a car to brake, steer, and accelerate automatically through motorway jams. It, therefore, maintains its position relative to the vehicle ahead. That may sound like science fiction but the technology builds on features that are available today on fairly affordable cars. Ford's Adaptive Cruise Control, for starters, controls the throttle and brake. Their Lane Keeping Aid helps motorists follow a line, and Active Park Assist automatically steers a car into a parallel parking bay. How? Using a combination of sensors and cameras. So, Ford Traffic Jam Assist could be a reality within five to ten years.
'Drivers spend more than thirty per-cent of their time in heavy traffic', said Joseph Urhahne – an engineer from Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. 'Traffic Jam Assist could help make travelling through congestion a more relaxing experience and - by using technology to keep pace with the flow of traffic - potentially help relieve road congestion.'
And that is only the tip of the iceberg. Clearly, it is only a matter of time before vehicles can manoeuvre without any human involvement. This poses a fascinating question. Who or what is responsible if a self driving car crashes? After all, however clever, technology cannot be foolproof and every vehicle, laptop computer, mobile phone, MP3 player and microwave fail at some point. So, even if it takes years a self driving car will cause an accident. Is that the vehicle's fault for being flawed or the motorist's for failing to monitor and override its systems. That is an extremely tough question. I suspect the issue will be resolved in court courtesy of a few test cases. So, call me a Luddite but I would rather drive.