The Life at Westminster Column with Sir Greg Knight

Self-driving cars will be just one part of major motoring change.
Self-driving cars will be just one part of major motoring change.

Parliament has recently given approval to the first stages of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill which seeks to pave the way for self-driving cars on our roads.

There aren’t any fully self-driving cars available to buy yet, but there are plenty of vehicles with autonomous features, such as an automatic driver-assist system that on motorways allows owners to take their hands off the steering wheel and their feet off the pedals.

It’s about as close to self-driving as it gets with a vehicle you can buy today.

With a combination of cameras, sensors, and mapping data, the current auto-drive feature allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel during motorway driving. But drivers need to keep their eyes on the road, and an infrared camera mounted on the steering column keeps track of where you’re looking to make sure you’re doing just that.

Look away for too long and a light in the steering wheel blinks red and your seat vibrates to remind you to pay attention.

Semi-autonomous systems such as autopilot and super cruise are sometimes dismissed as just glorified versions of cruise control, but they are a toe in the water for what’s to come.

As more and more cars are sold with these advanced features, motorists will get used to letting go of the wheel and trusting their cars to handle some of the driving.

And soon enough, many will probably feel comfortable enough to relinquish all control, which is where Parliament and car companies think we are heading.

Make no mistake, momentous motoring change is coming, the like of which we have not seen since the motor car itself was invented!

Former Prime Ministers generally become more popular with the public after they have left office.

However, they are not always so popular with politicians, particularly when they offer unhelpful advice to their successor.

Especially so when this is someone of the same political party.

Tony Blair, the most successful Prime Minister the Labour Party has ever had, is now detested by many people in the Labour Party.

John Major and David Cameron too have each developed new detractors.

Former PMs would be well advised to take the advice of Stanley Baldwin who was Britain’s Prime Minister in the 1930s.

On the day he left office, he was asked by a journalist, as he left Downing Street, whether he would be available to give his successor the benefit of his opinions?

Baldwin responded tartly: “No. Once I leave, I leave.

“I am not going to speak to the man on the bridge and I am not going to spit on the deck.”

Uttered in 1940, that is still good advice for retired ministers.