Allister Heath wrote an article this week in the Telegraph about electric and driverless cars. The headlines reads, "These aren't the dying days of the car, but the start of a driving renaissance". It's very upbeat look into the future - a future where electric, driverless cars will take you to work whilst you are eating your breakfast, or catching up with paperwork. You could even watch a DVD (or whatever will replace it in the future) knowing that you don't have to do anything other than open a box of popcorn, sit back, and enjoy.
Will driverless cars be the future? Who knows? I certainly wouldn't bet against it, although if the predictions in Back to the Future are anything to go by, we should caution ourselves not to expect too much from advances in technology.
But the point is that companies such as Google, Volvo, and Tesla are investing probably billions of pounds between them to give us what we may want in the future. They are trying to predict our future needs. Meanwhile back to the present, motor manufacturers are building and selling electric cars faster than ever before. They are doing this because there is a demand. Electric cars are cheaper to run; they are quiet; and, of course, they are better for the environment. Anyone who has had the misfortune to breathe in the exhaust fumes from a so-called "low emission" bus, knows what I am talking about.
The electric cars of today, and the electric/driverless cars of tomorrow, are made possible thanks to the free market.
Ah, some people will say, but surely it's the EU that we have to thanks for this. If it wasn't for Brussels, we wouldn't be trying to improve air quality. The British Government (especially a Conservative Government) would have been more than happy for us to all die of respiratory illnesses. One of those people saying that - in a round about way - is Jonathan Freedland in his Guardian column on Wednesday. This ardent Remainer can's resist flying the flag for the EU and is determined in equal measure to warn us all of the stupid decision a majority of us made on 23 June last year. Here are the closing two paragraphs of his article:
"If Brexit goes ahead, then by 2040 we will of course be free to do our own thing – to foul the air as much as we like. But if we decide against that, the standards with which we will choose to comply (and with which any vehicles we make, and hope to sell) will have to be compatible – will, no doubt, be set – in Brussels. It’s just we won’t have any say in setting those rules.
"It’s just one more illustration of the folly of Brexit and the folly of our current masters. The industrial revolution may be drawing to a close, but while previous generations could gaze confidently into the future, we seem fated to look ahead with only trepidation."
He is being very optimistic if he thinks the EU will survive that long, but even if it does, it will be us, the consumer, demanding more innovation, better technology, longer battery life for cars, more comfort, more safety. Minimum safety standards will be more or less the same no matter which Western country you live in. Hardly an illustration of the folly of Brexit; more a lesson in why we should have freer markets - something the backward looking, protectionist EU fights against every day.
Photo credit: Grendelkhan