Electric self-driving cars? Not in our lifetime ...
There has been much written, discussed and dissected about self-driving cars and cars running on electric motors in recent seasons. But, as worthy as these ideals may be, there is a long road ahead before these vehicles are commonplace – even in Australian urban areas, let alone the bush.
The motor vehicle has changed little since Henry Ford started rolling out Model Ts.
Today we still have, for the most part, internal combustion engines up front driving at least one pair of wheels through a set of manual or automatic gears.
These mechanicals sit in, for the most part, an enclosed steel, plastic and alloy body with any number of doors and windows and driver up front. And maybe a utility tray out back.
A 2018 Ford Mondeo wouldn’t be all that foreign to our Henry, though he may marvel at the add-ons, from electric windows to Bluetooth connectivity.
So good on those pushing the envelopes in different directions, allowing some cars to run on electric power and some without need for much driver input (provided the sun doesn’t blind the car’s cameras to the big white truck up ahead).
Autonomous cars, for now at least, rely on roadside assistance from clean white line markings to speed signs on good and wide bitumen roads. These are not in abundance in Australia and may never, ever reach Birdsville.
Direct sunlight, dust, mud and slush found in abundance on our roads may also interfere with the car’s “scanners”.
And if the recent fatality in Arizona, where a woman pushing a bicycle across a road was killed by a self-driver is any guide, what chance when a kangaroo broadsides the car? The new-age prophets will say you needn’t use autonomy all day, all night, but why pay for part-time technology? Why further dilute driving skills and attention spans?
All the while, all-electric cars are fuelled by power generated in coal-fired generators. Please explain.
Why isn’t there more talk about hydrogen-fuelled cars if chasing clean and green electric motoring futures?
Nothing against progress in the motor business but it should be measured. Keep the hype to a polite level. Please.
Meanwhile there’s little alt-progressive in Holden’s Equinox, a mid-sized SUV wagon that rolls into the wheel tracks of the departing Captiva.
This one is Mexican-built with some local tweaks, primarily in ride and handling departments.
The range starts out at $27,990 for a 1.6-litre powered front-drive wagon and works through to around $50,000 with a two-litre engine and all-wheel drive.
It is not a bad SUV and drives quite well with the turbocharged two-litre petrol motor and nine-speed automatic combination. Rides well too.
The body style is a bit mixed, a bit last-season-USA (which is where the Equinox sells well) and it’s certainly no Mazda CX-5 in looks.
There’s excellent room inside the Holden for five people although the cabin finish is not up to the standard of Korean or Japanese rivals.
But all Equinox arrive with a fair whack of safety, comfort and convenience features.
That, plus the good cabin size and the wagon’s driveability, helps make the Equinox a reasonable prospect for the family buyer even if it’s not quite a class-leader.