The End of the Auto

end of the auto

InTheMiddleMediumTurning 16 in America is the first milestone we reach on our journey to adulthood.  Obtaining your driver’s license is a rite of passage.  A first taste of real freedom.  It’s part of The American Dream.  It’s the 28th Amendment to the Constitution!

A driver’s license combined with the federally funded interstate system provides a sense of freedom rivaled only by outer space travel.

When I turned 16 it took a few short months before I faked a weekend camping trip and drove several friends 300 miles to the beach.  We did actually camp because all of our money went to gas and food.  Nonetheless, the most important memory of that trip is how free I felt.  I realized I could hop in my car and drive anywhere.  Even to a foreign country…like Canada!

A Subtle Change

Over the past decade something strange and disturbing occured behind closed doors.  Honestly, it was sinister.  It seems the former Big Three conspired again.  It’s worse than the dismantling of streetcars from the 1930 to the 50s.  It’s more horrific than squashing poor Mr. Preston Tucker’s revolutionary car.  It’s even more severe than keeping the 99-MPG car from hitting American roads.

What is the latest conspiracy?

It’s the end of the auto — directly from the industry that created the auto craze!

In the last 10-years, the Big Three galvanized a union of the US government, MIT, Silicon Valley, the oil industry, and the auto industry.  Why have they done this?  To what end?

To slowly erode our freedom while maximizing profits and control! They have created the end of the auto.

Cars are no longer 4-speed, 8-cylinder, positraction vehicles of awesomeness.  They are safe, web-enabled, boring modes of semi-individualized transportation.

This Can’t Be!  What Happens Next?

I believe we are no more than 10-years away from riding around inside of personalized robots with wheels.  We will have automatically forming, dynamically adjusting car trains.  Cars will self assemble these trains, adjust to release and add cars, and safely deliver us to our destination of choice.

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If this concept holds it will be a great compromise joining our national love of the auto, our thirst for independence, and the environmental benefits of mass transit.  The infrastructure already exists because of the 4 millions miles of roads we currently have.  Our country is rapidly becoming wireless.  And in remote areas, similar to when electricity followed rail lines, wireless internet connectivity will follow the major road systems.

Think this is far-fetched?  Let’s look at some recent technology changes from the auto industry to remember how far we’ve come in ten years.

Recent Innovations

In the early 2000s, Cadillac offered a nighttime pedestrian warning system.  BMW enhanced the concept with giving a dashboard display with pedestrian direction in the 2009 7-series.  And in 2010, Mercedes introduced the Night View Assist Plus which pinpoints pedestrians and highlights them on the dashboard.

Subaru has EyeSight(™) that includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, and lane sway/departure warning.

Chrysler has cross traffic detection and Ford has cross traffic alert.  Both technologies deal with rear facing radars that are activated when the auto is engaged in reverse.

Mercedes, always pushing the envelope in technology and engineering, recently introduced a driver habit tracking device in the E class.  The premise is the car memorizes your habits and warns you as you deviate from your normal behavior.

Many luxury options have become affordable options for the common car owner.  Parental controls, cameras, GPS/mapping, in-car internet, and adaptive cruise control have made it to common cars.  So have highly advanced computer systems with touch-screen displays and phone integration.

Don’t forget about self-parking cars and Google’s self driving cars.

Possible Futures

  • Mobile offices
  • Dynamic displays on any surface
  • Energy storage systems from your movement and from closing the car door
  • External airbags
  • Self repairing tires
  • V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle communication)
  • V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure communication)

Imagine a car that knows your calendar, has learned you run late on Monday mornings, and adjusts your phone’s alarm accordingly.

Let’s consider some other scenarios:

Intelligent carpooling.  Through V2V, your car communicates with other cars near your house.  19 people live near you who tend to leave about the same time, arrive in the same vacinity, and return home about the same time every day.  11 listen to the same type of music as you.  5 have similar hobbies as you.  3 have children about the same age going to the same school.  So your cars arrange carpooling.

The family shuffle.  What if you can send your children to their school or practices alone in your car once your children are 13 or older?  Why not? The car is safe and will communicate with you about the status of your children.  You can monitor the activity from your Google optical implant.

Too much fun.  You’re out with friends and you have a really good time.  You can have your car drive you home without the fear of causing harm (or receiving a DUI).

Never ending errands.  How about your car running errands for you while you work or sleep? Your local drive through Amazon distribution center knows what types of household and food items you buy, the frequency you use them, and your current inventory.  Your car goes to pick the items up based on your need and your schedule.  It can even take care of its own maintenance and handle your dry cleaning!

The unforeseen.  What about an emergency situation?  You car communicates with the closest hospital and the available ambulances to determine, with an emergency routing physician, that your car can safely and quickly deliver you to the hospital.  All the other connected cars, traffic signals, and police are alerted as your car changes colors, flashes lights, sounds a horn, and whisks you away to the emergency room.  All the while, the emergency physician is observing you and asking questions.  Your car can send your vitals.

These aren’t far fetched ideas.  In 10-years you really won’t be purchasing a car.  You’ll buy a robot with wheels that you ride inside of and that can run errands for you while you work.  What are you willing to allow your car to do for you?

Some Industries May Drastically Change

The auto insurance industry is dead.  In fact, the liability for auto collisions will move to the entity that controls the vehicle or the infrastructure.

Gas stations will go backwards 50 years.  Every fueling depot will have attendants because most of the cars will arrive without a driver.

Having a driver’s license to take your car off the grid will be more difficult to obtain than a concealed carry gun permit.

Let’s change our perspective.  Instead of thinking about what industries will be severely altered, how about what new products and services will emerge?  New businesses will drive the economy and help us grow.

Modern Luddites

Of course with this level of automation and lack of control, there will be those who resist, protest, and try to destroy the technologies supporting the systems.  Other people may take a more passive approach.  I can imagine reclaimed and revitalized ghost towns growing into horse or bicycle communities where robot cars aren’t welcomed.

Final Thoughts

I enjoy driving and I always have.  I enjoy traveling by car, too.  With easy connectivity, my desire has shifted to be mobile + connected.  I welcome automated driving of my own car because it allows me to travel and do other things.  I can see a time when I leave home at night and sleep in my car then arrive the next morning at a meeting.  But that means I need a shower and ironed clothes…another opportunity for a new business.

 

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