A transport “revolution” will soon see driverless, electric vehicles slash air pollution, reduce the need for new roads and almost eliminate traffic accidents, a senior minister has proclaimed.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Letwin – who runs the Cabinet Office and advises the prime minister – told MPs that huge changes were on their way for Britain’s roads.
Speaking in front of an Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee inquiry into air quality this week, Letwin said driverless, electric vehicles were “fewer years away from now than people currently think”.
“You will get into a machine that looks something like a car, that you punch some data into and it takes you silently from where you are to where you want to go, without you having to interfere in its activities,” he added.
“I am pretty convinced that what is going on now with the conversion to autonomous vehicles and with electric vehicles is very, very, very significant.”
Letwin said that electric cars could prove a huge boost to efforts to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality.
He added: “Once they are autonomous, you can fit dramatically more of them on a stretch of road, so you don’t need as much road building as we are used to, you don’t get as much congestion and the level of accidents diminishes almost to zero.
“There is in prospect a colossally significant revolution.”
Roads minister Andrew Jones last month compared electric vehicles to the internet.
Letwin said this week: “I don’t remember reading terribly many stories about something called the internet, which turned out to be a really rather important development.
“In a similar way I don’t think we’re being informed in anything like a sufficient way about the [transport] revolution occurring in front of us.”
New Civil Engineer reported last year that a key technology figure predicted that the first generation of people who would never need to drive had already been born.