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Volkswagen’s New Self-driving Van

As technology improves, the vehicles we drive on the road become ever more sophisticated and many are hopeful of achieving major steps forward in the fight against pollution and the race to create ever more eco-friendly and convenient cars.

One such manufacturer is Volkswagen, who has announced their latest effort in the innovative eT! van, a concept vehicle which can drive itself on command and uses a zero-emission electric motor.

Although in no way near to production, the concept of the vehicle will be appealing to delivery companies – indeed development was carried out in consultation with the German post office. The semi-automated function enable to vehicle to follow the postal worker as he moves from house to house, saving him the walk back the vehicle at the end of a long street. Alternatively, once he reaches the end of the street, he can summons the van which will drive to his location.

The main saving for businesses would be time, though critics may well point towards the increase in energy consumption. Volkswagen will argue that the inclusion of a zero-emission motor negates this increase.

As a concept, this may seem somewhat far-fetched but the technology developed for this vehicle could also be used in other ways. For example, a semi-automated vehicle which is capable of detecting when its driver becomes unwell and is able to take control and safely come to a halt could save many lives.

Other recent concepts

Added to this, the continued development of low or zero-emission vehicles is only positive for the battle to lower pollution and reduce environmental damage. The same group which has devised the eT! concept was also responsible for the NILS car, intended as a vision of single-seat commuter vehicles in coming decades. This prototype features a lightweight design and is powered by a lithium-ion battery pack with a range of 40 miles.

Volkswagen are not alone in developing far-future prototypes – Audi, with the Urban concept, has also been researching new vehicle designs for the commuter market. Renault is another which is experimenting with battery-powered urban models. This marks the probable next phase in the evolution of the city car, where introducing electric power is more economic than in larger types of vehicle.

The irony is motoring’s pioneering years had electric propulsion at their core, and many of the early vehicles used this method. The growth of petroleum infrastructure and cheaper petroleum car production methods introduced by the likes of Ford saw a shift in the balance which is only now being redressed. A century later, the electric car is quickly becoming the focus again.