2047: A day in the life
“Good morning, Sarah.”
“Good morning, House.”
“Sarah, you have an appointment in the city centre at 9am.”
“Ah, yes. House, get me coffee, and an auto outside in 15 minutes, please.”
I hear House firing up the espresso maker in the kitchen. Ten minutes later I’m dressed and sipping a cup of fresh coffee. I open my coat closet. “It’s cold outside, Sarah. 3°C. Wrap up warm.”
I step outside my apartment. It’s a crisp, sunny July morning. I guess if someone from 30 years ago were to look at this suburban Geelong street they’d find it pretty amazing. The pavements either side are six metres wide and the road is about five. People are the priority.
I’m 28 – old enough to remember the rush-hour rumble of combustion engines when I was a girl. And the smell. All I hear today is the little twittering noises the autos make when driving in built-up areas, and the shouts of the local kids playing some pre-school AFL in the street.
Their parents are okay with this because most cars that come down here are pods and autos – autonomous drivers – which makes this street very safe. I wave at Lucas, my neighbour, who’s out polishing his classic V90 Cross Country from 2017. Lucas loves driving, but I prefer being driven. It means I can use my time in the car as I choose.
My car is outside now, with a hologram of my name scrolling across the window. Because I’m going more than 20km, House has ordered one of the larger, long-range Volvo autos. It looks very different to the first Volvo, which was made 120 years ago, but it shares the same aim: to give people more freedom.
If it were a hop to my office in central Melbourne, I’d take a pod – one of the smaller electric vehicles that bustle round our streets like rickshaws and sometimes conjoin to form “caterpillars” for big events like concerts or football matches.
The car recognises my phone. Its door opens for me and I get in. “Good morning, Sarah.” says the car. “Your journey to Melbourne is 75.1 kilometres. $15 will be charged to your account. Journey time will be 35 minutes.”
We glide off, and soon pass one of the out-of-town ‘auto-parks’, a 200m two-storey hangar where the autos go when demand is low, to recharge and repair. “Where they go to sleep,” as my little niece puts it. We’ve put the old city car park spaces to some imaginative uses. The one outside my local IKEA has become a compact forest. Nowadays, developments are built with people, not cars, in mind.
“Sarah, you have time to watch the latest Wallpaper webcast. Would you like it to start now?” asks the car. “No thanks, Car. I need to work.”
On the freeway, my auto joins a road train with about 10 other vehicles all doing 200km/h, 50cm apart. Because each vehicle is driving autonomously and connected via the cloud it’s an incredibly safe and efficient way to travel.
As we glide past Port Phillip Bay, I scan the news quickly on the head-up display. Then I put on my VR glasses and watch a gallery walk-through, just to make sure I’m ready for my presentation, and make a few extra notes on my tablet.
I almost wish I had more time in the auto. You can get so much done in the car. This journey used to take my dad over 90 minutes in rush hour – more if there was a crash. And all he could do was sit there. Now, car crashes are so rare that they make the news, most of the time. There are far fewer human drivers to get tired or distracted, fail to see things, or simply make a bad decision.
Now, traffic just keeps moving.
The auto deposits me outside the door of my destination in Collins Street, Melbourne.
“Want me to wait?” It asks.
“No, thanks, I might have lunch here afterwards and take a wander.”
“Okay, Sarah. See you again soon. And good luck with the presentation.”