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Whilst the world seems fascinated by how soon driverless cars will become a reality, technology in other forms of transport is also being developed and you could soon face the dilemma of whether you would fly in a pilotless plane?

We already have drones and auto pilots, so the technology is probably more advanced than cars and whilst the talk is initially of cargo planes, pilotless airliners are also planned. The benefit to the airlines is obvious, no pilots to pay, train, take time off or to make errors and no doubt they will also be able to squeeze in a few extra paying passengers.

But will the public have an appetite for pilotless planes? Despite its reputation as the safest form of transport, many people already have a fear of flying and if things go wrong we want a Captain Sully (from the Hudson River incident and subsequent Tom Hanks film fame) to get us down safely.

The ‘experts’ will no doubt give assurances about safety, but would be wise not to overlook the human propensity for fear and having experienced an ‘auto pilot’ steering a car, I wonder whether the push for driverless cars may also hit the ‘fear’ problem. I can’t see myself in a driverless car at 70 mph or pilotless plane anytime soon, although interestingly, the driverless Docklands Light Railway isn’t a concern. I suppose they are slow, don’t have to steer and Southern Rail drivers have also done a good job of promoting driverless trains.

Fear is a strange phenomenon and seemingly irrational when you do not suffer yourself. Some fears you grow out of, like kids being afraid of the dark, but others you can develop, which I experienced with flying. Initial excitement changed to dread following a particularly bumpy flight, although now I don’t mind flying again.

Some cause amusement and a big burly guy who was training to swim the Channel, but was afraid of fish, comes to mind. Others seem odd, such as the fear of clowns and mice and of course, hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (the fear of long words).

Heights have always been my biggest fear, followed by snakes and I don’t think I would be keen on sharks, if I ever met one. Nowadays, like many men, I seem to have developed a fear of shopping and if I have an unusual one, it’s those horrible old dolls that seem to stare at you.

Many people seek out thrills, like bungee jumping and theme park rides, but others are the complete opposite, avoiding the likes of escalators and lifts. And perhaps that gets us back to the driver/pilotless question: it is the loss of someone being in control and the worry whether the technology will work. I can’t be the only one who is still relieved to get through automatic revolving doors, although probably as much to avoid looking an idiot, than worries about safety.

Insurance of course trades on people’s fears and what could happen, especially the financial consequences. Most policies deal with the more rational risks such as fire, but if you have a worry or fear, however unusual, you can probably get cover. There are insurers that will happily take your money to cover for abduction by aliens, or attack by zombies.

But finally, let’s hope you are not one of the few with a fear of Father Christmas. Irrational? Possibly, but given the current climate, who would sit on an old bloke’s knee.

Happy Christmas.

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