Sunday, 28 January 2018

Where Are We Heading? Driverless Cars and All That by Trevor Thorn

The T Pod ‘concept’ driverless truck
on display at the Detroit Motor Show

We don’t have to look very far in the media to come across articles giving opinions about the many developments about to shape our futures. Some are pretty alarmist, some are very carefully reasoned, but all of them are united in the view that we are approaching a period of change even faster than that of the last couple of decades. To many people that will feel threatening. Others will work on the assumption it will affect others but not themselves. And some will make serious efforts to think the social implications through and publish their ideas for wide and wise consideration. These are articles and broadcasts worth seeking out.

I personally look primarily to The New Scientist and the Science and Tech pages of The Observer together with the Science, Tech and Health pages of the BBC’s news site. These last three change daily and are readily accessible to anyone with a computer. They make it clear that many of the issues around the corner are very profoundly significant . Let’s think very briefly about a few of them.

In my heading, I talk of driverless cars. They are probably closer than most of us would expect (even despite the fact that as I was loading this to the ACW site, news came in of two separate driverless car crashes!). They have an important adjunct. Driverless lorries are a logical extension and at the Detroit Motor Show a ‘concept’ lorry is on display which has no windows and no space for a driver. Called the T Pod, all the space that a driver’s cab absorbs in a conventional vehicle both for driving and overnighting can be used for goods. For transportation companies it is probably a ‘no brainer’ to change, especially as such vehicles will be able to be driven in convoy along motorways thus reducing ‘drag’ on all but the leading vehicle, and then single lorries in the convoy will be able to peel off when close to their final destination. It sounds astonishing and legal systems are going to need to change rapidly to accommodate such changes: that is the responsibility of governments. But, more disturbingly, there are going to be far, far fewer driving jobs of both lorries and cars/ taxis and I wonder if the church will have anything to offer so many rapidly displaced men and women.

The whole area of robotics allied with artificial intelligence poses further big questions. There are aspects such as search and rescue in disaster zones where drones and carefully programmed excavating robots will bring major benefits. There will also be huge changes to help in the home and it is an oft repeated theme that we can expect that robots will soon be found in care for the elderly situations. It is impossible to dream out every possible application – but there are very many indeed and some will bring ethical questions in their wake.

Finally, but probably most importantly, in this very brief glimpse, comes the whole arena of climatology and ecology. The huge problem of plastic waste in the seas has been brought into prominence partly by the careful thinking behind ‘Blue Planet’ and we should be grateful for that. There is also the issue of rising sea levels and their cause. These two issues alone give rise to many, many questions, one of which is how good we Christians are as stewards. Our earth is a unique and amazing gift and surely we should be making our gratitude for it clear by our actions and words.

Perhaps this is later than usual for a new year resolution, but a determined effort to keep these thoughts and appropriate actions at the forefront of our minds can be a gift, not only to our generation but, perhaps more importantly, to those of younger generations who are going to feel the impact of these changes as they grow to maturity and have to cope with the rapidity of them. Even small changes to our habits can undoubtedly be beneficial Kingdom actions.

More thoughts on these topics can be found at Eco-verses


  1. Thank you for this interesting post.

  2. Both thoughtful and thought-provoking. Thanks, Trevor.

  3. Thank you Aggie, Fran. There are so many challenges for us as Christians in this rapidly changing age