Autonomous, truly driverless, cars are obviously going to change the transport network. It's a fun parlour game to try to work out which parts it's going to kill. Actually, not so much a game given that we've the usual suspects insisting that we must spend tens of billions - if we add up all the schemes perhaps hundreds - on the rail network. For it's the non-commuting passenger part of that network which is going to be murdered in its bed by that new technology:
Volvo has unveiled a futuristic concept car that it hopes will replace short-haul air travel and introduce new safety standards that could put driverless vehicles on the roads sooner.
The Swedish company’s 360c autonomous vehicle does away with the steering wheel and uses the extra space created by electric drive systems to create different cabin layouts.
These can be configured into modes such as commuting, mobile office, entertainment and sleeping.
With a flat-bed installed, Volvo believes its cars can replace short-haul air travel, targeting flights of up to 400km - about the distance from London to Newcastle.
Short haul air travel might well suffer. But it's going to be the train taking the strain.
Those commuter lines in and out of London, say. No, we're not going to start moving a million and more people a day on the roads, rail has its place there. Long distance travel is still going to be by air whatever the promoters of things like the TGV insist. But that part of the transport network where rail is in competition? Travel - for business and pleasure and of people not freight - in the tens of miles to the hundreds?
Assume, for a moment, that the advertised technology works. What are people going to prefer, that public option of the feeder line to the terminus, change, the fast train to wherever, that switch to local transport again? Or what is, effectively, one's own private train carriage able to transport you point to point anywhere on Britain's road network?
Well, quite, and the reason we're spending tens of billions (before the inevitable cost overruns) on HS2 and the like is what? Investing in a soon to be entirely redundant technology?
The argument in favour of government investment is that it will invest in things the private sector won't. It's also the argument against it as well.