back to article Robots will enable a sustainable grey economy

My uncle Amadeo turns 79 this week and bought himself a luxe Model S Tesla as a present. Amadeo is an eminent scientist and avid student of the future, so the Tesla was an obvious choice because I suspect he recognises that he won’t always feel comfortable behind the wheel. So he opted for a vehicle that can already do some …

  1. redpawn Silver badge

    Preserving the status quo

    Now the old entrenched elite will never have to to pass on their position to younger workers or even hire a chauffer.

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Preserving the status quo

      A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm

      Tesla AI: Sorry, Dave.(inflates emergency cushions) But this is just in case I need to drive under a white truck.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dumb yanks

    Many developing countries already have this. It's called public transport.

    When transport is comprehensive, and people aren't all spread out in decaying suburban sprawl, car ownership becomes optional and even undesirable. In some countries buses are free for old people, no proof of age required.

    What will happen is these countries will move on to cool maglev trains, self-driving buses, cycle lanes, pedestrianised city centres, and car cultures will be stuck with an unassailable socio-technological debt. You have to build public transport into the fabric of new cities.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dumb yanks

      Good idea, AC! They could learn from the UK's best public transport, in and around London.

      Its slow, dirty, overcrowded, and a wholly unpleasant experience. It has minimal levels of adaptation for the elderly or those with limited mobility. And at a total cost level it is ludicrously expensive, even if fares are controlled down.

      If you really think we're moving to a post-personal transport world, you've only thought about it from the public sector provider perspective, rather than what people actually want.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Dumb yanks

        > You have to build public transport into the fabric of new cities.

        Building infrastructure for the future is tricky - you don't know what you'll need. Take the first canals in England; they were relatively narrow, because it wasn't seen how popular they would become. Businesses and warehouses were built right next to them, which meant that they then couldn't be widened, necessitating the construction of new canals for service the same routes.

        New cities... Interesting. ”If you want to go there, then I wouldn't start from here" goes the old joke. Can anyone here sketch out a portrait of any recent examples from around the world? In any case, the majority of the urban population, especially in the West, won't be living in new cities anytime soon.

        1. Putters

          Re: New Cities

          Dave 126 : "New cities... Interesting. ”If you want to go there, then I wouldn't start from here" goes the old joke. Can anyone here sketch out a portrait of any recent examples from around the world? "

          The only one that springs to mind (and I can't say it's a shining example),

          Naypyidaw - the capital of Burma

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naypyidaw

          https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/mar/19/burmas-capital-naypyidaw-post-apocalypse-suburbia-highways-wifi

        2. HandleAlreadyTaken

          Re: Dumb yanks

          I intellectually agree public transportation should be the most efficient way; however, at least for me, the old joke is true more often than not: public transportation takes me from somewhere where I'm not to somewhere I don't want to go.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Dumb yanks

          > Take the first canals in England; they were relatively narrow, because it wasn't seen how popular they would become. Businesses and warehouses were built right next to them, which meant that they then couldn't be widened, necessitating the construction of new canals for service the same routes.

          Pedantically, widening a canal is trivially easy (you just dig away the bank) except for the tunnels and locks, which are nigh on impossible to widen without closing the canal for the duration.

          The original canals were narrow because the boats were horse drawn, and since horses walk at the same speed as each other, overtaking wasn't seen as necessary.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dumb yanks

        "UK's best public transport, in and around London."

        It might be dirty and slow, but at least London has viable public transport. In Bristol we only have buses, and they're bloody terrible. They're expensive (more than London), slow (slower than walking a lot of the time), infrequent, dangerous, and rarely go where you need.

        That said, public transport is tricky anywhere the street plan is basically still based on the medieval roads that Farmer Giles used to get his cows to the river a thousand years ago.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Dumb yanks

          "That said, public transport is tricky anywhere the street plan is basically still based on the medieval roads that Farmer Giles used to get his cows to the river a thousand years ago."

          I think you've misstated the medieval history of Bristol.

        2. nijam

          Re: Dumb yanks

          > ...public transport is tricky anywhere the street plan...

          Nothing to do with street plans. Public transport is conceptually flawed, based on the weird assumption that everybody has the same requirements. There are a few places where it's a statistically-valid assumption, but usually it's unjustifiable. In the UK, transport systems are hobbled because policy-makers base their policies on what would (perhaps) work for (their part of) London.

          1. Alien8n Silver badge

            Re: Dumb yanks

            And not forgetting government short sightedness. We still don't have a railway station in the town/village I live in, despite rapidly expanding population due to house building. All thanks to Dr Beeching*

            *Note, the only reason East Grinstead kept its station was the fact his other half needed to still be able to get in and out of London from there. The surprise was that they didn't keep the line going south, obviously she wasn't that keen on ice creams by the seaside...

            1. big_D Silver badge

              Re: Dumb yanks

              But East Grinstead is a complete pain, if you want to get anywhere other than London. You have to go to Croydon / London and back out again to get to Three Bridges, for example. It was quicker to ride my bike over to college... Or take the bus.

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: Dumb yanks

                But X is a complete pain, if you want to get anywhere other thanY. You have to go to Y and back out again to get to Z"

                Generic statement of public transport at its best. Worse is possible.

          2. strum Silver badge

            Re: Dumb yanks

            >Public transport is conceptually flawed, based on the weird assumption that everybody has the same requirements

            Yet there are traffic jams, all over the country, because huge numbers of people want to go from (roughly) the same place to another same place.

            Increasingly, as autonomous(ish) vehicles can take public transport passengers the last mile or so, it will be private transport that fades away.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Dumb yanks

              "Increasingly, as autonomous(ish) vehicles can take public transport passengers the last mile or so, it will be private transport that fades away."

              How does that work? Is public transport going to invest in fleets of autonomous vehicles that will be used for an hour or so at each end of the working day? Private owners do so because they have to. Public owners won't because it's SEP.

            2. Joe Montana

              Re: Dumb yanks

              The key point is "roughly"...

              And in these instances, the public transport (if it exists) is usually over congested too, and the routing may make things worse as it forces people to take indirect routes via hub locations instead of going directly to their destinations.

              Too many people going to the same places at the same times. The congestion problems would be solved by spreading out times and locations.

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Re: Dumb yanks

                "Too many people going to the same places at the same times. The congestion problems would be solved by spreading out times and locations."

                Trouble is you lose efficiency once there: less economies of scale.

          3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Dumb yanks

            "Public transport is conceptually flawed, based on the weird assumption that everybody has the same requirements."

            Which usually comes to the conclusion that everyone wants to commute into the centre of $city in the morning and back out at night.

            This starts to fail when you have clusters of towns & cities such as Manchester, Oldham, Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds/, Wakefield and Sheffield (plus a few others on t'wrong side of t'Pennines) or the equivalent in the Midlands & the North East. You then find that the only public transport offered is $home to $(centre you don't want to go to) to $(centre nearer where you want to go to) to $(where you want to go to) and it takes 2 hours each way with one connection involving a 40 minute wait and another just 40 seconds. It doesn't help to move house because different members of the household commute in different directions.

        3. 2+2=5 Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Dumb yanks

          It might be dirty and slow, but at least London has viable public transport. In Bristol we only have buses, and they're bloody terrible. They're expensive (more than London), slow (slower than walking a lot of the time), infrequent, dangerous, and rarely go where you need.

          You think Bristol's busses are dangerous? Try Reading's.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Dumb yanks

      Dumb AC! What makes you think that all old people should or want to live in a crowded city as they get older. Lets get rid of urban sprawl and jam everyone into a high rise eh?

      You can keep your future I have my own ideas.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Dumb yanks

        For those not in a big city, how often do they drive? The grandparents drive once a week shopping and once or twice a month to the doctor's.

        If they got rid of the car and used a taxi, it would probably work out a lot less than the maintenance and insurance for the year, let alone deprecation, fuel etc.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Dumb yanks

          "For those not in a big city, how often do they drive?"

          Let's see.

          Mondays SWMBO to gym. We each pick up one of the grandkids from school.

          Tuesdays SWMBO to her patchwork class (used to be me who drove her before some equipment changes were made & a smaller car was enough). Then SWMBO to art class.

          Wednesdays SWMBO to gym then one of other of us take grandkids to tennis.

          Thursdays Me take SWMBO to charity shop, collect her later then go for meal, one week in 3 go to local auction viewing.

          Fridays SWMBO to gym, then often both of us out to where-ever (it's often the only weekday with nothing fixed for the afternoon).

          Shopping? Oh, mostly me, two or three times a week.

          The thing is, we both grew up in a time when private vehicles were rare. When they became generally accessible it was a change which had probably only been equalled once in human history and that was the introduction of the bicycle. It represented a huge expansion of individual freedom to travel at will. The introduction of railways probably came somewhere close but even then there was a constraints of distance from station, routes and timetables.

          I suspect the entrenched hostility of TPTB to the private car is an expression of their instinctive opposition to any form of personal freedom - much the same as their current opposition to privacy of communication.

          1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

            @Doctor Syntax

            Thursdays Me take SWMBO to charity shop, collect her later

            Yeah, I had that problem with mine for a while, but after a few weeks of persistence I finally found someone who was willing to take her off my hands.

        2. Warm Braw Silver badge

          Re: Dumb yanks

          For the elderly, it's often a matter of freedom and quality of life rather than cost. My father continued to drive with dementia and burned out several clutches in the course of two years but would never contemplate taking a taxi because in his remote part of the coutryside it would mean booking a taxi several days in advance and at the same point confirming a pick-up time. The ability to do things spontaneously rather than at someone else's convenience has a value, particularly when your control over other parts of your life is slipping away.

          Having an autonomous car collect the shopping is also not really what elderly people want - they don't want to be confined indoors seeing noone. And, indeed, how long are traditional shops going to survive?

          Video chat with their friends and a delivery driver turning up periodically along with a postman and milkman would do a great deal more for many isolated elderly than an autonomous vehicle taking them on a solitary trip to the last supermarket not to fall to the might of Amazon.

          A version of Skype running on a large screen on the wall that could be operated without continously swapping spectacles would make a much bigger difference at a much lower level of investment.

          1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

            Re: Isolation

            Video chat with their friends and a delivery driver turning up periodically along with a postman and milkman would do a great deal more for many isolated elderly than an autonomous vehicle taking them on a solitary trip to the last supermarket not to fall to the might of Amazon

            I beg to differ - video chat is not a like-for-like replacement for social interaction with an actual human being.

            Speaking from experience, my own father falls into the "lonely" category right now, having recently suffered the bereavement of my mother. He'd had someone by his side pretty much all day every day for something like 6 decades. With that gone, he feels very isolated.

            Having only a few moments of human interaction with a milkman or postman each day is not enough, and to keep his sanity he travels to places where he can meet friends in person...just talking on the phone is not enough. Until you've felt lonely and isolated, you cannot imagine how soul-crushing it is to go for a entire 24 or 48 hour periods without seeing another human being.

            1. ArrZarr Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: Isolation

              @Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese

              "you cannot imagine how soul-crushing it is to go for a entire 24 or 48 hour periods without seeing another human being."

              You just described my perfect weekend.

              If I could make this happen for my weeks off work (have to go buy food somewhere), I would happily do it.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Dumb yanks

        "What makes you think that all old people should or want to live in a crowded city as they get older."

        I live in the country. We still have the remnants of public transport here. If I want to go somewhere where I can't be bothered with the hassle of parking or just their general hostility to cars as a whole I use my bus pass. It is, of course, ironic that the better bus service isn't the one with a bus stop just down the lane but the one where I have to drive a few miles to the bus stop.

      3. strum Silver badge

        Re: Dumb yanks

        >What makes you think that all old people should or want to live in a crowded city as they get older.

        Many oldies retire to the country, or to the seaside - only to discover they're nowhere near the health/care support systems they increasingly need.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Dumb yanks

          "Many oldies retire to the country, or to the seaside - only to discover they're nowhere near the health/care support systems they increasingly need."

          You can stay in the same place and discover the health care systems become nowhere near all of their own accord.

      4. Jonathan 27 Bronze badge

        Re: Dumb yanks

        Statistically, life is much better for elderly people in cities. Because of their limited mobility, cities allow them to get out and do more things. I'm not saying anyone should be forced to do anything, but it's something to think about.

    3. picturethis

      Re: Dumb yanks

      Public transport does not work for all places in the US. Even if it did, there are still issues with the elderly (I'm getting there myself) with 1) actually getting to the bus/train stop 2) Some of us live miles/kilometers from the nearest stop.

      This is what I'm coining as the "last step" (or last wheel-chair?) problem (as opposed to the last mile problem).

      The timing may actually be pretty good for me. I figure I will want (or need) something like this in about 10-15 years - by then they <should> have all of the issues worked out.. I hope..

      There's also the issue of one's independence which Yanks have shown to value from time-to-time.

    4. Colin Ritchie
      Windows

      Buses still are a thing.

      The bus service in Kent is geared up to support all ages of traveller. Newer designs of bus lower themselves to the kerb when they stop to allow wheelchair users on, they are equipped with USB charging points for mobile devices and even have rudimentary wifi while in built up areas. My Mum is 73 years old and has thouroughly relished her free bus pass since it was first issued to her on her retirement. She has no need for a car or even a license, despite living in the sticks. Hourly buses work just fine and are a far cheaper, less wasteful use of resources than individual autonomus vehicles, no matter how cool they sound.

  3. jmarked

    At this trend, sooner even the younger ones will enjoy it.

  4. frank ly Silver badge

    Spritely?

    Can he get into and out of the Tesla without help? For that demographic and for shopping, something more 'comfortable and practical' would be better. I'm sure they'll be developed and made eventually and be available at a comfortable and practical price.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Spritely?

      > Can he get into and out of the Tesla without help?

      One of the reasons that Japan has led the way in robotics (besides their high tech manufacturing base) is due to their awareness that their population is aging, and their are fewer young people to care for the infirm aged. This means that devices that aid in the care of older people are of great interest. A vehicle with a mechanised seat that raises the passenger up is not beyond the wit of engineers.

      The infirm are of course only the extreme end of an older population. Japan (and Germany for that matter) have used design of the workplace to allow people to stay in work for longer. Indoor hydroponics farms for growing lettuce, with the plants grown on raised beds mean that they can be harvested without the farmers bending down.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Spritely?

      Elon Musk is 46, so I reckon Teslas will start getting more old-people friendly in about fifteen years. Sooner if he starts getting mobility issues.

    3. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Spritely?

      Help or not, according to the article one can get a Tesla S for about a hundred times the price of a Zimmer frame. I just saw one (Zimmer) on Amazon UK for £32.40, I am going to buy a Tesla S tomorrow with cash, ready for my retirement next year.

      I drove one for a short distance a couple of years ago, impressive!

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    What a beautiful and glorious vision. Meanwhile...

    Across town a carer on minimum wage is performing her third "manual evacuation" of the week on an constipated codger while trying to work out a route to her next appointment that will get here there before she is docked for being late, and which won't need the driving skills of Jason Staitham in The Transporter, or an Audi to do so.

    Her employers, who won the contract from the local authority on the faked credentials and bogus social connections of the CEO, will continue to charge the local authority through the nose for this service, because running it in house cannot possibly be a good use of resources because subcon-tractors are soooo much more efficient.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: What a beautiful and glorious vision. Meanwhile...

      We've just seen how hard it is politically to address these issues. Theresa May makes tentative noises about using using the assets of a generation who have done pretty well to pay for younger people to care for them and people start shouting 'dementia tax!' by people claiming to be 'progressive'.

      I'm not saying I supported her plan, just that any sensible debate seems impossible with partisan views. If only sociable media could be used for education and learning instead of uninformed self expression.

      And a form of social networking maybe could be so used - there are efforts to network experts to answer social and technological problems.

      http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/futuretense/how-to-problem-solve---the-ultimate-problem/8610108

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "We've just seen how hard it is politically to address these issues."

        Agreed.

        Where the "Grey vote" is concerned it's not just the codgers who are sh***ing themselves over the costs of community care.

        My "techno fix" would be a human sized and shaped remotely operated avatar which was strong enough and agile enough to handle elderly care, eliminating the travel problems and allowing enough time to properly tend to peoples needs and without risking serious injury doing so.

        But the issue remains where the money comes from. Life expectancy is going up. In the UK it is expected that 25% of the people alive today will live to 100, an astonishing figure that's been quietly creeping up year by year, 1% at a time.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: "We've just seen how hard it is politically to address these issues."

          Well, if we could build robots to build the robots that help us out of bed...

          Taken all the way (eliminate all human labour) we eventually get to questions about the allocation of finite resources, such as land, minerals and power (energy)… and thus population growth.

        2. Toltec

          Re: "We've just seen how hard it is politically to address these issues."

          "In the UK it is expected that 25% of the people alive today will live to 100, an astonishing figure that's been quietly creeping up year by year, 1% at a time."

          If they live longer then it is probably because they are healthier even if there is a cost in drugs to maintain that they are less likely to need high levels of care and, trying to be on topic, self driving cars and other robotics will also help them remain in their own homes for longer too.

          An optimistic view perhaps, I just prefer to hope for the best and plan for the worst rather than sink into a pit of depression that will be self fulfilling.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: "We've just seen how hard it is politically to address these issues."

            > If they live longer then it is probably because they are healthier even if there is a cost in drugs to maintain that they are less likely to need high levels of care

            Not exactly. Longer life spans are partly attributable to a decrease in cheap to treat conditions such as heart disease*, thus a rise in expensive to cope with conditions such as dementia.

            *If you survive you may have a Stent or drug treatment and lifestyle changes - or else it kills you quickly. Dementia patients may require care for years.

            1. Toltec

              Re: "We've just seen how hard it is politically to address these issues."

              "Not exactly. Longer life spans are partly attributable to a decrease in cheap to treat conditions such as heart disease*, thus a rise in expensive to cope with conditions such as dementia."

              Yes, I know it does not balance out and even if treatments to prevent/delay/reverse some types of dementia become available there will be other things that cost more. Robotics in the home, while cheaper than humans still will not be cheap.

              This may pull in some down votes so let me preface that I mean the following supported by an ethical framework; my father has Alzheimer's. Dependent in individual circumstances stopping treatment of dementia patients for some of the other conditions such as heart disease could be the kindest thing.

        3. Nolveys Silver badge
          Terminator

          Re: "We've just seen how hard it is politically to address these issues."

          @John Smith 19

          Across town a carer on minimum wage is performing her third "manual evacuation" of the week on an constipated codger...

          My "techno fix" would be a human sized and shaped remotely operated avatar which was strong enough and agile enough to handle elderly care,

          "All right Mr. Colnberst, we'll get you cleaned out straight away. Just hold still."

          "OHJESUSGOD!"

          "I'm so sorry Mr. Colnberst, this thing is acting up again. Let me call tech support."

          "Hello, this is tech support. How may I help you toda...ooohhhh, that's what you're doing right now."

          "The arm on this thing isn't moving properly. It should be making a slow, gentle movement, but it's just slamming down hard."

          "Let me just try resetting the control unit here."

          "MOTHEROFGOD!!!"

          "Well, that shouldn't have happened. Let me check the servo calibration."

          "SWEETJESUSMARYMAGDALENE!!!!"

          "Huh, everything I do seems to cause the arm to actuate. Let me try a factory default reset."

          "OHMYGODOHMYGODMOTHEROFGODJESUSGOD!!!"

          "The control unit isn't responding..."

          "AHHHHHHHHH-AHHHHHHHHHH-AHHHHHHHH!!!"

          "I think the arm's trying to seek to it's factory default position, but Mr...is it Colnberst...is in the way, so it just keeps trying again and again."

          "OUR FATHER-UUUHHHHHHHHAAA-WHO ART IN HEAVEN-EEEEEYYYYYYHHHHHAAAAA-HALLOWED BE-GAAAAAAAAA!!!"

          "Yeah, okay, uhhh, I've come to the conclusion that the problem is because of your internet. You'll have to call your ISP. Have a nice day." (click)

          "Hello? Hello?!"

          "THOUGH I WALK THROUGH-OHMYGAAAAAAAD-VALLEY OF THE SHADOW-GUUUUAAAAA-FEAR NO EVIL-RAAAAAWWWW-WILL IT NEVER END!!!?"

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Happy

            ""I'm so sorry Mr. Colnberst, this thing is acting up again. Let me call tech support.""

            Ho ho ho. Very nicely done.

            The comic possibilities are nearly endless.

            What I had in mind was more what "Shadow Robtics" had created for a "robot chef" system. This uses high power to weight pneumatic "muscles" (essentially balloons inside a strong knitted bag)

            Such systems can be as strong as hydraulic systems but as the run on compressed air they can be compliant, so if you push back they "give." Handy for safety issues but still able to lift an adult in an emergency.

            Lighter "muscles" means lighter structures and lower power needs, a ripple effect throughout the design.

            For the UI I was thinking of putting a screen on the front face like those things at conferences, like Segways with web cams, microphones for the back channel.

            The goal is to help people stay in their own homes who are still mobile but with limited mobility.

  6. moiety

    work the pub

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Seriously, the autonomous car could reverse the decline of the country pub. Well, it would address one factor; successive governments have been determined to keep raising beer duties on health grounds, despite the fact that booze can be bought for an eighth of the price from a supermarket and consumed at home. What we lose is community and the health benefits of society and laughter.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        the autonomous car could reverse the decline of the country pub

        If transport were the issue, yes. But the even faster decline of urban pubs suggest there's rather more to it. The decline has been fairly continuous since before 1980, with a brief pause during the late 1990s. It isn't really about the smoking ban, or taxes, or transport, it is that fewer and fewer people want to drink in pubs, for a range of reasons.

      2. Arctic fox
        Headmaster

        "...................car could reverse the decline of the country pub."

        One of the factors that contributes to decline of the country pub is the (quite rightly) strict rules with regard to drinking and driving. I doubt very much that those laws will be relaxed for self-driving vehicles, particularly since the putative driver must be ready to take over control if the automatic systems require it.

        1. moiety

          Re: "...................car could reverse the decline of the country pub."

          If you have to be ready to take control, it's not an autonomous car.

        2. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: "...................car could reverse the decline of the country pub."

          Having a human take over the controls at a moment's notice is not safe. The systems need to be reliable enough that this is never required. I was referring to a mature tech (like your vehicle's brakes are mature), not current autonomous tech.

          One way of increasing safety is to travel more slowly. Many would prefer an hour's journey reading a newspaper to driving themselves for forty minutes.

          1. Arctic fox

            @Dave 126 Re: "I was referring to a mature tech........."

            I agree in fact with much of what you say. However, in this particular context, given that governments very rarely relax laws and are far more inclined to tighten them up, it is likely to be a very long time indeed before you or I will be allowed to use an autonomous vehicle whilst plastered.

            :)

            AF.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "Seriously, the autonomous car could reverse the decline of the country pub."

        You think you couldn't still be done for DIC even if the car was driving itself? You underestimate your political masters.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          > You underestimate your political masters.

          You think? I did note that pubs are unfairly penalised if one accepts government's stated reasons (reduction in alcohol consumption) at face value.

      4. Joe Montana

        Variety of reasons...

        It's not just alcohol taxes, supermarkets have to pay the same taxes that pubs do... The fact that alcohol is cheaper in supermarkets has more to do with economies of scale and not having to provide a venue for consumption or glasses to drink it from etc.

        Many people work far from where they live these days, so not only do they not know the people who live in their local area, they will often be tired by the time they get back and not want to spend the evening in a pub.

        Many people no longer have a local pub, the only pubs available require travel to/from and because drink driving is illegal most people's preferred method of transport is not available, and many forms of public transport are unavailable or less frequent at night. You end up with taxis being your only choice, and taxis are expensive.

        Couple the high taxi cost with the higher cost of alcohol vs buying it in the supermarket, plus the time spent travelling when your feeling worse for wear at the end of the night, people would rather drink at home...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Hurrah we can work forever

    Fantasic, just when you thought you might retire while still able to comprehend that you've retired, and hopefully still able to reach the toilet unassisted, you are now gifted the splendid opportunity to continue to 'contribute to the economy' because nothing else matters.

    We will all do light part-time jobs and nobody ever has to do any heavy lifting or anything boring or icky ever again? What world do these people live in? Oh I know, one where the little people already don't matter.

    Then you have the smug ones "but I love my job and want to keep doing it" who seem to think everyone else has a nice job too, and that everyone has the same opportunities, no, they really they don't. Or maybe I did, I just had to ditch my humanity and compassion, and friends and family.

    edit: changed from posting anon, embrace the bitterness, make it your own!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hurrah we can work forever

      you are now gifted the splendid opportunity to continue to 'contribute to the economy' because nothing else matters.

      Given that politicians and companies have made pension and healthcare promises that they can't afford to keep as life expectancy increases, what is your answer to the problem of an ageing population? Let 'em all retire at 60, and then expect the rest of us to pay for them and their health care for the next quarter century?

      The idea of "retirement" as some sort of decades long paid holiday that people are naturally entitled to is a thoroughly 20th century construct that has no rational, social or economic foundations. If individuals want that, fair enough, but lets see them contributing a third of their salary into a pension fund for their entire working life.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Megaphone

        Re: Hurrah we can work forever

        You missed the sarcasm in the 'because nothing else matters' in your keenness to misunderstand the point being made.

        There was no suggestion of people getting anything they should not be entitled to, or a requirement for people to honour the lies of the past.

        The problem is sort of an inversion - people who have been doing the crappy low-paid jobs that nobody else wanted to do are the ones who can least afford anything in their retirement and I think as a society we should be a damn sight more grateful than that.

        I don't especially care about any of these management (etc) consultants continuing to work, it's the presumptive attitude that somehow surely everyone should be able to do it, and again the failure to spot that there's not going to be enough suitable 'retirement jobs' to go round. Hey I know, maybe we could have some residential work facilities for those people who didn't come from a fancy management job, I'm sure everyone would feel so fulfilled with that.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Hurrah we can work forever

          "Hey I know, maybe we could have some residential work facilities for those people who didn't come from a fancy management job, I'm sure everyone would feel so fulfilled with that."

          Careful now. More sarcasm that might be misunderstood.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Hey I know, maybe we could have some residential work facilities for those people "

          Kenny Everet in heavy East European accent.

          "When we come to power in Britain there will be only one path from house."

          "To factory."

          "It will be one way."

          For some a nightmare, for some a dream. I'll let others decide which is which.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Hurrah we can work forever

        "Let 'em all retire at 60, and then expect the rest of us to pay for them and their health care for the next quarter century?"

        OTOH we keep getting told that AI and robotics are going to take everyone's jobs and it's difficult to see how anyone will be able to work at any age.

        Somewhere between the extremes there should be a compromise.

      3. nijam

        Re: Hurrah we can work forever

        > ...expect the rest of us to pay for them...

        Hmmm. As someone who may retire in the next few years, I might observe that I've been paying to fund national pension and healthcare for the whole of my working life, and (dare I say) at a not-inconsiderable rate, mandated by said government. Don't blame those of my generation if said government has frittered away that money...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hurrah we can work forever @ nijam

          Don't blame those of my generation if said government has frittered away that money...

          I'm not far off the same age as you, so please don't read that I'm stirring inter-generational strife because I don't want to pay. Personally I'm more likely to benefit than lose out from the current flawed system, but I object to the epic incompetence and unfairness of it all, particularly for people currently under 45. So I'm not blaming the population, I'm observing a series of simple facts that most people don't like. The blame sits with clueless civil servants and dishonest politicians, unfortunately they are not rich enough to hold to account to make up the vast deficit on public sector pension obligations (or health and social care costs).

          Regarding your comment about frittering away the money, in the context of pensions and related costs, government never collected it in the first place. The state pension is just a simple unfunded Ponzi scheme, with the promises based on the logic that paying for one government's promises is a subsequent government's problem. Even if successive governments had squirreled away everybody's NI into a hypothecated and securely invested fund, the contributions both real and notional that people have been making would be insufficient to pay the pensions and other benefits that people believe they are entitled to, primarily because of fast growing life expectancy. And that would still be true if we calculated that notional contributions included not just NI, but some element of the income tax we all pay.

          So coming back to the original comment and article, we need the pensionable age to rise, we need older people to keep working for longer, and we still need higher taxes and see reduced benefits. Things like perhaps paying to see a GP, no NHS dentistry, social care costs offset against high personal wealth levels, hotel charges for hospital in-patients. I don't like those any more than anybody else, but at the moment we have a system where costs are growing significantly faster than the economy as a whole, and government have been spending many tens of billions more than they raise each year for about the last quarter century, and they now owe assorted creditors £2 trillion. Corbyn clearly thinks there's a money tree, but he should go to Greece and see what happens when borrowing gets out of hand. Sadly the twats of the Tory party are no better at economic management, and ultimately somebody will lose out, big time. Even if that somebody were "rich" creditors, in a total loss scenario nobody would then lend to the British government at all, and it would overnight have to cut public spending by at least £50 billion a year, or raise taxes by a similar amount.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Hurrah we can work forever

          "Don't blame those of my generation if said government has frittered away that money."

          It wasn't so much frittering away the money as spending as intended. You were paying into a Ponzi scheme just as the rest of us have done. None of the money we paid in is left over because it was spent on pensions, healthcare and other benefits as we paid it in. It's been that way for a long time.

          It's not a good scheme and not easy to break out of. Grey vote aside, a generation that decides to break with it will simply grow old to find itself unsupported.

          What should have happened was to start off, back when Lloyd George set up old age pensions, with a fraction of the money paid in being invested. With time that investment could have grown so that gradually the income from it could have replaced contributions. Of course that would have meant public money favouring some investment targets at the expense of others, opportunities for corruption, putting undue power in Civil Servant's hands etc. So it didn't happen and here we are.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Hurrah we can work forever

            "What should have happened was to start off, back when Lloyd George set up old age pensions, with a fraction of the money paid in being invested."

            Question is, what fraction without either ticking off taxpayers with higher taxes or ticking off the elderly with lower benefits? It was almost untenable from the get-go except that penniless Gran dying while eating dog food was even less tenable. IOW, the least-worst option was almost unacceptable in itself.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meatsacks of old, a gallery.

    There will come a point where the cost of everything is put into the algorithm of existence, if the job is more efficiently done by a robot, it will be done by a robot because that is efficiency, there will be less need for universities if much of the paying work is better done by AI and “Dudes Mechina” The way your aged relative earned his expensive car may not exist for the future generations.

    We can’t view our destination from here (even those who are looking), the autopilot may drop us off half way.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Other cars are available …

    Which is good, because I don’t think I’ll be buying one from Mr. Musk. Actually, I don’t think I’ll be buying one at all, given how cheap a pensioner’s public transport pass is here, somewhere in northern Europe.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Other cars are available …

      Horses for courses. Musk's plans include the Gigafactory for reducing the cost of lithium ion batteries, the plans for which he intends to open source. Autonomous driving tech will further reduce the costs of public busses, perhaps allowing more, smaller busses (no labour cost employing drivers) which creates more flexibility in route and timetable. Alternatively, the human driver will instead become a conductor, assisting people on and off the bus, and cheering them up.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Other cars are available …

      Perennial problem with public transportation is that for every stop you pick there are 10 that are too far away. And then there's that dreaded destination: "Out of Town" or even "Off the Beaten Path." For these or tasks too large for two hands, it's personal transport or bust.

  10. Nick Kew Silver badge

    Not just the old

    There are people of all ages who shouldn't be driving.

    - Those with physical infirmities such as poor eyesight

    - Those with social or mental problems such as fondness for booze

    - Those of a nervous disposition who might get distracted by, for example, a wasp buzzing around their head

    - The impatient

    - The easily-distracted (especially in the presence of distractions such as friends or children).

    - The absent-minded or dawdler

    - The over-confident/complacent

    Perhaps it would be simpler to summarise, and just say "normal people" as a first-order approximation.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I love the picture of a 'grey' utopia

    Sadly the real world is very different from that.

    Over 40? Forget getting an IT job or one that won't be sent to India in the next year.

    {remember that India has lost tens of thousands of IT jobs this year}

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/business-40426969/india-s-it-industry-what-has-gone-wrong

    you just gotta save those poor people...

    Over 60? Employers will just send your CV to the shredder. It does not matter if you have 30 years appropriate experience. They think the only job you are suitable for is stacking shelves at B&Q until the Robots take over.

    And take over they will. in 5-10 years we will have around 8 million unemployed. the country will be bust while the likes of Amazon are the only game in town and therefore rake in the big money and continue pay no tax on it.

    I'm glad that I'll have popped my clogs before then. In the meantime get back to your Tesla Utopia, it is nice to dream.

    Where is the modern day 'ned ludd' when you need them eh?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I love the picture of a 'grey' utopia

      Where is the modern day 'ned ludd' when you need them eh?

      He's leading Her Majesty's Parliamentary Opposition.

  12. 's water music Silver badge

    I wish your uncle a long and healthy life...

    ...but please let him know that he has bought a car with fancy cruise control and not an autonomous mobility aid. If he doesn't have the strength or reaction times to pilot a large chunk of metal around the the roads that he shares with me and people that are important to me then he needs to get it properly adapted or stop driving on public roads

  13. 0laf Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Hmmm

    Honestly I don't think it will quite work like that, not for a good while anyway.

    I think that cars with autopilot features will be expected to work much like the Teslas of today, the law will still expect a human to be 'in control' of the vehicle at all times.

    So you'll still need a license, still need to be sober and still need to be in the driver's seat with your hands on the wheel. You'll still be liable for any accidents irrespective of whether you or the autopilot is actually in control at the moment of impact since you will be the legally responsible person.

    I think the days when we'll be able to tell the car where to go then climb in the back seat and go to sleep are a while away. The technology will arrive a lot faster than the law will allow it.

  14. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "By the mid 2020s you’ll be able to buy autonomous vehicles from nearly every major manufacturer at a variety of price points."

    But will we bale able to avoid them? I'm assuming we won't be able to completely rely on them avoiding us.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmm...

    So if the grey economy is old duffers providing a work force.

    What is the black market?

    I thought we were done with that eons ago.

    Reg you're dicing dangerously with terminology here.

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Hmm...

      When I first read the headline, I took "grey economy" as meaning the shady, heading-towards-black market, for example I've heard the term "grey import" used for goods acquired cheaply from overseas from genuine manufacturer but sans warranty.

      In the context of this article, I think "silver economy" (as in "silver surfer") might be a more appropriate term.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmm...

        In the context of this article, I think "silver economy" (as in "silver surfer") might be a more appropriate term.

        You're glossing a turd there. How about the wrinkled economy?

  16. Christian Berger Silver badge

    How can a car-based future be long term sustainable?

    I mean seriously, you either run out of crude oil or lithium, and before that global warming will have run off.

    Cars are good for certain situations, but shipping around a 100kg person in a 2000kg car every day just to go to work or to buy stuff is idiotic. That's a problem decent public transport can solve cheaper and better.

    Of course the car industry has a big problem with this, and since its very powerful (at least in Germany) no measures to reduce car ownership will be taken.

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: How can a car-based future be long term sustainable?

      but shipping around a 100kg person in a 2000kg car every day just to go to work or to buy stuff is idiotic. That's a problem decent public transport can solve cheaper and better

      My nearest bus stop is a mile away. My nearest supermarket is 20 miles away. Even if there were regular buses (and not the two a day during the week that we have now) explain to me how I should do my weekly shopping without a car.

      1. Nick Kew Silver badge

        Re: How can a car-based future be long term sustainable?

        My nearest bus stop is a mile away. My nearest supermarket is 20 miles away. Even if there were regular buses (and not the two a day during the week that we have now) explain to me how I should do my weekly shopping without a car.

        Are you able-bodied? Then get a bike.

        If you're too disabled to cycle but not too disabled to drive then you may perhaps be excused. Though you still have other options, like living somewhere better-suited to your needs, or using the supermarket's delivery service.

        1. Alister Silver badge

          Re: How can a car-based future be long term sustainable?

          Though you still have other options, like living somewhere better-suited to your needs

          Ah, so anyone who needs to shop regularly shouldn't live in a rural area, is that what you are saying?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How can a car-based future be long term sustainable?

      shipping around a 100kg person in a 2000kg car every day just to go to work or to buy stuff is idiotic

      Christian, you should do some research on average bus mileage and passenger km numbers, and then some checks on typical forms of buses (and for that matter cars). Last time I looked the average bus carried about eight or ten people including a paid driver, and the average bus weighed around 12 tonnes. The average car is about 1 tonne. Factor in the inevitably indirect routing that any form of public transport is taking, and the environmental "benefits" of public transport start to vanish. If you replace single occupant cars with 100% loaded buses, you'll see some benefits - but outside of peak commuting hours on the busiest urban networks that's not a realistic proposition other than for muddle headed public sector bus-spotters.

      You could press gang the old codgers to take bus journeys they don't need at times that suit you, and thus improve the load factor of buses. Would that make you feel better?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How can a car-based future be long term sustainable?

      I mean seriously, you either run out of crude oil or lithium , and before that global warming will have run off.

      What's all this Calvinist-guilt shit ? There's plenty of other battery chemistries with a lot of promise, so we're in no danger of running out of raw materials for batteries.

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: How can a car-based future be long term sustainable?

      "That's a problem decent public transport can solve cheaper and better."

      In this context decent public transport borders on being an oxymoron. Stop crowding all the work into cities which need 1,000 square miles or more to house their workers. Don't take people to work, return work to where people live. It means reversing a life-time's planning policy but that's because it's taking more than a lifetime for planners to work out their policies were wrong.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How can a car-based future be long term sustainable?

      Lithium is an element. It's hard to run out of an element.

      1. Andy france

        Re: How can a car-based future be long term sustainable?

        @AC 'Lithium is an element.'

        Yep. It is a element. We use it but don't destroy it. The supply is fine too with an abundance of land deposits around the globe and a further 230 billion tons of it in seawater where it is not terribly hard to extract. We are not going to run out of it.

  17. Andytug

    I'm all for self-driving cars for the elderly

    Anything that'll stop Honda Jazz' and Nissan Micras holding me up at 26mph all weekend is fine by me!

    Knowing our luck they'll probably be run by Uber and the surge pricing will make them unaffordable for most people on Sundays.

  18. Slx

    Just as long as the nanobots don't go rogue and produce a world that turns to grey goo.

  19. SpongeBlob

    On which planet?

    First question... why would a retired 'oldie' want their car to drive them to work?

    Second question... will 'oldies' (or indeed anyone) actually want to own a car? Will they not just summon a service (probably an autonomous vehicle) and pay as they ride (a la Uber, et al)?

    Third question... why would you send your car to an Amazon drive-thru shopping outlet to collect your shopping? Aren't Amazon pretty damned good at deliveries already and will that not only get better with AVs and drone deliveries anyway?

    Fourth question.... what planet is this guy on?

    "time to mentor a generation who inhabit a world where work is almost never backbreaking drudgery and almost always meaningful " bwahahahahaaa.....

    And not once did he mention.....

    "My uncle will be able to summon the car to come collect him from the pub....".

  20. Alister Silver badge

    a generation who inhabit a world where work is almost never backbreaking drudgery and almost always meaningful

    Are all the dustbin men (and women), shelf stackers, cleaners, construction workers, care assistants etc from a different generation? is working in a fast food restaurant a "meaningful" experience?

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