Our motoring future is fast splitting into two strands: the car and the driver.
Firstly the car is being taken care of courtesy of electricity and hydrogen, broadly speaking.
The driver, however, is being increasingly serviced by that Orwellian thing that no one quite understands - the cloud.
Most people, however aware, are already using the cloud.
If you have an iPhone, for example, or a Mac laptop, you’ll find a lot of your music, pictures and work are stored not on the hardware you’re using, but the iCloud. It frees up data storage on your device by keeping things in the ether, ready to download when needed.
I’ve written in the past about HERE, the location cloud company that’s connecting cars and drivers with their surroundings - they’re responsible for mapping the roads so that autonomous cars don’t bump into lamp posts, for example.
Now they’re taking their huge data banks and matching all the information with “machine learning”, which is where computers start to take over our thought processes and predict what we want before we know it.
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Sounds scary but, like everything else, is already here really…predictive text messaging, anyone?
So now your driving habits and little peculiarities can be learnt by computers, stored in the cloud and downloaded by the car so it can save you time by servicing you better.
For example, HERE Departure Alert displays traffic conditions on the routes you most often take - to work and back, perhaps, or the supermarket.
Or how about HERE Personal Fuel Recommendations, which learns the driver’s preferred fuel brand and sensitivity to fuel pricing - mine would never suggest stopping at Clacket Lane services on the M25, for example, if it knew what was good for it.
It will calculate the distance and time required for the driver to get to a preferred fuel stop, and, in a stroke of genius and driver empathy that brings a smile to my face, it will make recommendations for where to fill up based on “the driver’s comfort zone for how far they travel on one tank of fuel before refuelling”.
In other words, it learns your anxiety about such matters. In my experience, men consider it a badge of honour to travel miles beyond the range the computer says it has left, and hours after the yellow light comes on, while women pull in to the first station they pass as soon as the dial dips below the final quarter mark.
Another “contextually aware” new feature is HERE’s Personal Parking Recommendations. This makes off-street parking suggestions when the car is within 1km of its destination.
Over time, the system says it earns the driver’s preferences in terms of price and walking distance to the destination.
Although, once again, for drivers demonstrating their bravado levels, where’s the fun? I’m far more bullish than my boyfriend when it comes to parking.
Visiting a new town, I prefer to ignore all signs, first to long-stay parking, then - accompanied by him rolling his eyes - short-stay parking, and head straight for the alluring “town centre” signs. Always works; always nab a space right on the cobbled high street by the cafe.
So maybe the future is about taking on board all this stuff, then jettisoning the parts you’re not interested in.
I’m already there: my arguments with satnav about the best way to go are endless. I’m always right, naturally.