A post-Brexit technological revolution will sweep Britain, so all is well, and those of us who believe that Brexit was an idea knocked up in a London pub and written down on one of Nigel Farage’s fag packets can sleep easier.
We have Philip Hammond’s word for it so it must be true. His much-leaked plan – to be announced at tomorrow’s budget – will confirm that the revolution’s first manifestation is designed to boggle your mind and have you rushing to man the pro-Brexit barriers in your millions.
Wait for it, wait for it… driverless cars by 2021. The car industry is turning handsprings.
The political spin industry is breathless in its admiration of the chancellor’s chutzpah, which I think is a make of driverless ministerial limousine.
Tests will be permitted on the open road without “human operators” – formerly known as drivers – and the kind of pesky legal constraints insisted on by those wimps in the EU and the USA will be dismissed with an airy waft of the ministerial magic wand.
This is Britain, land of post-Brexit opportunity. Abracadabra.
It may surprise you to know that I have my concerns and some questions. These centre primarily on the first confrontation between two driverless motorhomes on the A838, a lynchpin of the North Coast 500, when they reach a blind corner with a fabulous view over to Orkney, just a little to the east of Coldbackie Bay, and in a north-westerly gale, and from opposite directions.
How do the driverless brutes decide which one is responsible for reversing three hundred yards to the nearest parking place? And what happens if one or both of them go inadvertently off-piste in trying to effect a computer-programmed solution?
How do the driverless tow trucks retrieve the driverless cars from the peatbogs… peatbogs hell-bent on reclaiming what I am sure will be biodegradable body parts for nature?
I can’t help wondering if Philip Hammond has read The Horses by Orcadian poet Edwin Muir (silly notion, I know, given such a well-educated man as the chancellor), in particular the lines: “The tractors lie about the fields; at evening/They look like dank sea-monsters crouched and waiting./We leave them where they lie and let them rust./‘They’ll moulder away and be like other loam.’”
One industry executive who has been reading the chancellor’s hymn sheet, and quite possibly the tea leaves (but not Edwin Muir, I fancy) was quoted thus: “This news secures the UK’s position as the global leader for self-driving car development and innovation.”
Not on the A838, it doesn’t.
Meanwhile, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders purred: “These vehicles will transform our roads and society, dramatically reducing accidents and saving thousands of lives every year, while adding billions of pounds to the economy.”
Not on the A838, they won’t. Instead, I think they will add hundreds of dank sea monsters to the fields a little to the east of Coldbackie Bay, and other flashpoints on the North Coast 500.
Another of my concerns is what might happen when a driverless motorhome and another vehicle with an actual driver (say a tractor with a crofter and a collie on board) meet head-on at said blind corner with the view of Orkney. This is an area of speculation almost too fearful to contemplate in print in a family newspaper.
Say, for example, the tractor driver has all day, say he already despises the motorhome – all motorhomes – and doesn’t give a damn whether it has a driver or not on the basis that the ones with drivers can’t drive, either, and, by the way, he has no intention of reversing 300 yards to the nearest parking place.
The collie, incidentally, is on his side, and doesn’t much care for being driven backwards.
Meanwhile, the chancellor (according to the leaks) will tell as much of the country as cares to listen (a dwindling rump, I suggest) that he will build a country fit for the future and make the UK a leader in the technological revolution.
But, then, there is also the possibility that he wants his speechwriters to pep up the language a bit, because it sounds so drearily like whatsisname, you know, the other chancellor that Mrs May couldn’t stand… Osborne, that was the name.
So the speechwriters went away and Googled this and that and came up with a great line. “Our life is changed; their coming our beginning.”
Good, said the chancellor. Where is that from? A poem called The Horses by Edwin Muir, said the speechwriter. The chancellor asked: And he was talking about driverless cars? Sort of, said the speechwriter… riderless horses.
Meanwhile, the tractor driver a little to the east of Coldbackie Bay would just like to know when he can expect a reliable broadband connection, and thinks the chancellor should get out more.