We've previously stated that it's only a matter of time before we humans stop the activity known as driving a car. Cars will drive themselves--doing a better job than most humans--while humans use their time in their metal exoskeletons for other purposes.
Well, Volkswagen has announced that it will make it's "follow me" technology available on certain delivery vans in Europe shortly. This technology allows a vehicle to literally follow its driver as he/she walks down the street, or to come pick up the driver from about a block away.
This is the next logical step from automated cruise control and cars that can park themselves. Of course, it's only a few more steps to fully automated vehicles. We can think of some immediate good uses for such, even as many drivers cringe at the thought. One is for blind people--what a blessing an automated car would be for them! Likewise for others with handicaps (permanent or temporary) that prevent them from driving.
Another group is very old people who can no longer safely drive. Just think, Florida could be the capital of automated driving. (Come to think of it, no one in Florida drives very well.)
There's also folks who have lost their driving privileges, either temporarily or permanently. They're a good market for the new technology because they usually have lost their right to drive due to BAD DRIVING.
Looking further down the road, so to speak, we foresee a whole new car concept. A driverless car can be configured completely differently from today's cars. There is no need for a steering wheel, brake pedal, accelerator and dashboard in such a car--those are for humans. Likewise, there is no need for fixed seats that face forward. Instead, you can have seats that swivel so a group can have a discussion while riding. Or, seats like those in first class on international flights that can lie flat so you can go to sleep. Leave for grandma's at midnight, take an Ambien and wake up a few hours later at your destination.
Indeed, there's no need for windows on such a car, although most people will want them. But the windows could also be darkened, or better yet, turned into computer screens. You could surf the web and play video games; of course, there will be those who watch porn as well. Which leads to other things you could do while riding in an automated car with someone you love.
If all cars were automated, you could also make them a lot lighter and smaller. Little women wouldn't insist on SUV's so they can see over traffic, and we wouldn't have to engineer massive cars of sheet metal to survive collisions with idiotic drivers of other massive piles of sheet metal.
And if all the cars are automated, they can go a lot faster, getting you to your destination more quickly. That's because automated cars would not need, for example, the staggered start that humans take at a stop light--they could all start at the same time and pace. You might not even need stoplights--just a system by which the vehicles yield to each other, as they could know exactly where all the cars around them are going.
You can also drink and ride--at least up to a point.
The way people interact with cars would be quite different as well. No need to look all over for a parking spot--you'd get dropped off where you want to go, and then the car would go find it's own remote parking spot. When you're ready to go, you just ask the latest version of the Siri app on your smart phone to have you picked up. Like an instant cab without the smelly driver.
Furthermore, if you can summon a car to pick you up, anytime, why own a car? Why not sign up for a car sharing service and get whatever type of vehicle you need at the time. Driving into the office? Order up a nifty electric one-seater. Taking the family to the beach? Get something more akin to an SUV, but without having to OWN one and drive it on the daily commute.
There will still be problems to work out--that smelly person who had the car before you; the people who leave their trash behind; the people who try to override whatever safety systems are in place, etc. You can always count on a few people to do their best to ruin a good thing, but most of these obstacles will be overcome.
It'll be a good while before everything's automated--there will always be a few diehards crying out about "freedom" to drive themselves (at least until they try one of those porn trips). But, the day is coming. Just look down the street.