The driverless car is no longer the stuff of science fiction writers or reserved for the movies. It’s here today with systems like automated parking and emergency braking, while industries like farming and mining are already using the technology. Autonomous vehicles could be tested on British motorways as early as 2017.
There are even plans in place to have self-driving cars on sale by 2020. But will the vehicles live up to the hype of those from the big and small screen? We’ve picked out our TV and film favourites and what it is that make them stand out.
KNIGHT RIDER TV SERIES (1982)
Has a driverless auto ever looked this sexy? David Hasselhoff’s crime-fighting Michael Knight had the perfect partner in the advanced artificially intelligent car KITT. The pimped out 1982 Pontiac Trans Am was not only self-aware, it could talk. And it had an impossibly cool pulsating red scanner with that iconic sound, spawning many real-life imitations. Pub quiz bonus points: KITT was an abbreviation of Knight Industries Two Thousand.
Likelihood of becoming reality? Ever used your Sat-Nav with voice readouts? Your car is already talking to you. Couple that with autonomous driving technology and KITT is more possible than you think.
TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997)
James Bond gets all the best gadgets: pen gun, explosive keychain, wristwatch with laser beam; you name it, 007’s got it. In Tomorrow Never Dies with the suave Pierce Brosnan, the British Secret Service agent is given the keys to the BMW 750iL. It looks more conservative than other cars in the franchise, but that can’t be said about the capability of remote controlling the vehicle via mobile phone.
Likelihood of becoming reality? Most of us already seem controlled by our phones, why not our cars too? Scientists from the University of California have already shown how to hack into a car’s on-board computer by phone to control wipers via text message, and even apply the brakes.
DEMOLITION MAN (1993)
The futuristic film Demolition Man set in 2032 starred two Hollywood heavyweights in Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes. It also brought us the concept of vehicles with ‘Auto Mode’ that would enable the GM ULTRALITE to drive according to the spoken commands of its occupant. As Stallone found out though, when things go wrong, they go seriously wrong. No, this probably isn’t the best way for driverless cars to go.
Liklihood of becoming reality? Voice commands already exist to control car infotainment and phone systems. How long before they command the car itself?
MINORITY REPORT (2002)
Minority Report had a slick car in the Lexus 2054 and Tom Cruise’s character Chief John Anderton had a close encounter with one being manufactured in an automated factory. The cars in the film are part of a computer-controlled mass transit system, meaning the occupants are simply there to enjoy the ride. Things look hectic with all of the vehicles criss-crossing and descending from tall buildings, but the system keeps things under control.
Liklihood of becoming reality? Ever taken the Docklands Light Railway in London? Automated public transport systems exist in many countries. And cities across the globe are already exploring how feasable it would be to use this technology in buses.
TOTAL RECALL (1990)
It’s 2084 and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Quaid is in a driverless cab with a robotic head and shoulders for a chauffeur. Johnny Cab is a bit disconcerting and he enjoys whistling – that tune is the Norwegian national anthem by the way – but he’ll get you to your destination without any scratches … as long as you pay for the privilege.
Likelihood of becoming reality? Singapore could have driverless taxis on its streets as early as this year while Tokyo is aiming for a fleet of autonomous taxis in time for the 2020 Olympic Games.
THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997)
The cars of 2263 will not only have ‘autopilot’ as a feature, they will also fly. Or that’s what The Fifth Element starring Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich tells us. We can only hope. The good thing is that you can easily change from automatic to self-drive for when you need to make a quick getaway, and your car will keep you happily informed of how many points you still have on your licence.
Likelihood of becoming reality? We’re on the road to driverless cars. Meanwhile in the air, auto-pilot and drone technology continues to evolve. Will we ever see the day the two combine? It seems the sky’s the limit.