**The article below was published on 1st April 2017 as an April fools. Entirely coincidentally, Gonville and Caius college, of Cambridge, also had a very similar idea for their joke on that day, although we can’t say whether they got their inspiration from us, we definitely didn’t get ours from them. However, we did subsequently discover that Oxford University had beaten us to it by two years!**
In a bold move, precipitated by growing concerns voiced by a number of the Cambridge University colleges about the noise pollution caused by punt poles grating along the cement bed of the river Cam, punting stalwart Cambridge River Tours has announced the introduction of the self-driving punt (not to be confused with self-hire punts).
The announcement is the culmination of a top secret, two-year R&D project, part-funded by the Cam Conservators. Working in collaboration with Google to make use of their self-driving car technology, CRT will soon launch the first wave of noiseless, self propelled punts from their Jesus Green punt station.
Proprietor Tim Campbell explains: “This technology heralds a new dawn of silent punting; our chauffeurs will be transitioning to new roles as Actualisation of Customer Experience (ACE) reps. This mean that tour groups will still benefit from the vast knowledge our chauffeurs have built up over the years; but instead of being precariously perched on the punt deck, dodging the champagne corks (and advances) of raucous hens and the like, they’ll be live-streaming their patter whilst nursing an expertly made flat white.
“Collisions will also be a thing of the past, as the technology will allow the punts to choose the safest and most efficient path along the river, paving the way for an immediate increase in the numbers of punts we can send out. What better sight could there be than a carpet of punts on the Cam?”
The new technology will help put an end to terrifying scenes such as this, witnessed recently from Clare bridge (warning, some viewers may find this footage shocking):
Sources close to Cambridge River Tours predict that Cambridge City Council, famed for their stance on nurturing the independent punting trade, will be keeping a close eye on the technology roll out.
Tim concludes: “We’ve heard rumours that this might signal the end of the self-hire punt, at least on the middle river. Word is that Cam CitCo plans to transform the Granchester stretch; investing in large inflatable punts propelled by padded poles, in a bid to reduce the health and safety issues inherent with self hire. It will be a whole new tourist attraction in itself. Of course, we’ll believe it when we see it…”