The Future of Transport: The Shifting Vehicle

self driving car

It is unquestionable that tech can, and often does, transform our lives.  Recently, tech has been achieving this by changing something we do or something we use in our everyday lives, either for more convenience, functionality or improved performance.  Think of smartphones. That innovation did nothing but change the way we communicate entirely, via phone, messaging and information communication via the Internet. Nest, along with many others, is attempting to transform the way we interact with our homes to increase function, performance and ease with the Internet of Things (IoT).  If tech can transform all of these things that we interact with on a daily basis, the question could be asked (even before the IoT takes off), what’s next?  Could it be the way we get from point A to point B?

Transportation or, more specifically, cars have obviously vastly changed since their inception.  However, besides incremental upgrades, safety features and nifty gadgets, has the user interface of a car really changed much?  Cars still have the same parts with a pedal and steering wheel system, they still run on the same power source and the actual way we drive, once the car is in motion, is essentially the same.  Maybe it is time for a change.

There are some people that have made great strides in this area with electric cars. However, I truly feel the first player with a 100% electric car that could replace, not supplement, but replace a gasoline car comes from Tesla Motors.  These 100% electric cars are getting impeccable reviews, have a great range, charge quickly and the company is gaining so much steam that some car dealerships are attempting to block them from coming into their state.   On top of the fact that you would never have to pay for gas or oil changes and that they look very stylish, these cars are incredibly safe. In fact, the National Highway Safety Administrations Board gave the Tesla Model S the highest safety rating of any car…ever.  If you are interested in a glowing review, read this very funny, very informative graphic from The Oatmeal.

The second way that tech is attempting to bring change to the transportation industry is by taking the human element out of the equation completely.  I am speaking of the self-driving car.  The implications for a self-driving car are huge, from the convenience of being able to work, watch Netflix or even sleep on your way to work, effectively nulling your commute, to the immense safety improvements that are possible by eliminating human error. Imagine a car that only has a navigation system, but navigates itself in real time, perhaps integrated with Waze to avoid traffic. Oh and the picture above is what the self-driving car “sees” as its driving you.  Google has made great strides in this field of research and has even made some progress in making it a reality.  Here is a video of a blind man behind the wheel of one.

There are of course, two relatively simple problems with the self-driving car’s advantages.  One is that people like cars, people like driving fast and people want to be able to speed when they want and change lanes when they want.  Basically, people like control.  The second problem is that in order for all of the potential safety implications to take effect, every car would have to be self-driving.  If only a few are on the road, while the convenience factor would be alive and well, a perfectly safe, self-driving car is not too helpful if you get side-swiped by a dump truck.

So, while the car could be in store for a huge paradigm shift, the adoption of these new venues could progress slowly.  The inevitability of both the electric car and the self-driving car is already upon us, but companies will have to contend with the mindset of the public (well, and the continued improvement of tech in the self driving car).

Check back next week for Part 2 of this article, The Future of Transport: Roads Under Construction.

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