There is something in the air, and in the vast halls that make up the mile long Frankfurt motor show, you can almost smell it.
If you believe those who will deliver the future of the car, we are on the eve of a revolution, one that will leave our children – or perhaps our children’s children – goggling at the profligate inefficiencies of the way we use our cars to this day.
And there is no doubt the revolution is coming, the only remaining question is when. For some time it has been clear to me that having vast lumps of metal sitting inactive outside our homes and workplaces is not an exactly brilliant use of the resources and investment they represent.
Every other transport industry, be it land, sea or air based, operates on the basis of a 24/7 basis and for fairly obvious reasons.
Why not the cars we drive? Last night Mercedes-Benz boss Dieter Zetsche gave his vision of the future of the automobile, and it involved us using cars on a just in time basis. So once our car has dropped us at the office, it beetles off under autonomous control to spend the day not sat in a car park, but working for someone else before returning to collect us at the end of the day.
Except it won’t be the same car that took us to work, but whichever one of a pool of presumably millions that is closest and most readily available. This way cars keep moving, keep working and the advantages in terms reduced congestion and emissions are not hard to see.
There will, of course be many fewer cars on the road but I guess they’ll wear out far more quickly so will need to be replaced far more often.
Indeed Zetsche went so far as to suggest the Mercedes-Benz of the future will not be a car company but a ‘Connected Mobility Services Provider’. Catchy, huh? And while the idea may make your blood run cold it is hard to argue against the sheer logic of what he is suggesting, and if it’s going to happen anyway, there seems no more point fighting it than sitting on the sea-front and ordering back the waves.
That said and for now at least I think those of us who still warm to the old fashioned concept of actually owning a car and enjoying their own car can relax. Just because a technology exists doesn’t mean it’s going to be adopted, otherwise we’d have all been driving hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars these last 20 years or more.
You need not only the technology but a market that wants to buy it, and at a price it can afford. And to me, that still seems a very distant prospect.