World premiere of Mercedes-AMG Project One concept car at the Frankfurt International Motor Show on September 20, 2017 in Frankfurt

Book review: ‘Autopia - The Future of Cars’ by Jon Bentley

Image credit: Eans/Dreamstime

A former ‘Top Gear’ producer takes us on a road trip, delving into how the cars that already dominate our roads will change in the decades to come.

Cars are arguably one of the most significant inventions created by humankind. Without them, getting from A to B would have been – and still would be – limited, the world of motorsport would never have been born, and the range of technologies that go beyond the car bonnet that we see today would be non-existent.

There’s no doubt that they have shaped our everyday lives, and there is so much more to come. In the next 30 years or so the technology itself will transform. This sets the question as to how new technologies will shape the cars of the future. Gadget fiend of ‘The Gadget Show’ and car nut Jon Bentley explores exactly that.

In ‘Autopia: The Future of Cars’ (Atlantic Books, £9.99, ISBN 9781786496355), Bentley looks at the motor industry’s rich heritage and talks to a range of engineers who are currently developing the technologies that we will likely see on our roads in the next few decades, from hydrogen-power to reimagined classic cars.

Bentley explores the world of connected and autonomous cars, which he personally experienced when hitching a ride inside a driverless Volkswagen Golf GTI in 2006, “when autonomous aspirations were yet to hit the mainstream.” In fact, even before its prominence, car automation surprisingly has had a long history. “For decades, scientists have sought to slash the death toll on our roads by replacing the fallible human driver with a more capable technological alternative.”

Successfully designing artificial intelligence that could take the place of the driver remains a challenge. But its slow-and-steady development enables experts to turn their focus on other features of the car that could increase their safety on the road. In fact, other technologies in cars are predicted to become much more advanced. LiDAR will enable a car to ‘sense’ the road, and could one day pave way for cars to see around corners.

Readers should expect to be taken through the options available for powering the cars of the future and debates into whether electric cars will ever overcome the issues of range anxiety and sluggish charging. Bentley also explores the potential of hydrogen and whether diesel deserves to be demonised for its contributions to our carbon footprint.

The neat aspect of ‘Autopia’ is that Bentley’s clear passion for cars and technology entices us further into the narrative. His expertise in the motoring world prompts a wide range of questions about the future of our cars – questions in which other car enthusiasts may also be asking.

Indeed, Bentley delves into the ways in which our future cars will retain their allure and their speed, and also gets to the bottom of some questions that are likely wanting to be answered by many within industry and consumers alike. Will cars continue to get safer or more hackable? What will happen to the classic cars that are cherished by millions? Will the car remain relevant in the face of competition from other means of transportation?

‘Autopia’ is a comprehensive guide to the future of one of our greatest inventions. Bentley ponders through every aspect that we know about cars and asks the relevant questions where appropriate, as well as reminiscing about his personal experiences behind the wheel, to create a coherent investigation into where the industry sees cars in the next few decades. A future in which all we can do for now is anticipate either eagerly or nervously, depending on your own perspective. But it would certainly make a good Christmas gift for those ultra car enthusiasts. 

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