The Future of Cars

Last Call

An estimated 80 or 90 percent of the time our cars are standing idle in the garage, at work or some other place. This is a huge amount of underutilized capital and physical mass.

In all likelihood, the future of personal transportation will challenge not one but two models we take for granted today: personal possession and human beings behind the wheel.

Over 40,000 people die in road accidents each year in the U.S. and human error, not mechanical failure, causes almost all of them.

Advanced technology will soon make it possible for us to enter a vehicle and punch in the destination, then sit back and watch as the car of the future will take off and safely deliver us at the desired arrival point.

This feat will make driving safer, more energy efficient (less stop and go); cheaper (fewer accidents mean lower insurance and repair costs); and allow the driver to use the time for more productive things. After all, the period spent commuting (an average of 250 hours per year) isn’t a very good use of our time.

While the technology described above might seem like an advanced autopilot, the minute that we legally would not be allowed to drive ourselves any longer certainly would inflame debate.

The concept of NOT owning our own car or truck probably sounds even more difficult to fathom. 250 million registered vehicles in the U.S. clearly shows how much we are in love with our rides.

lastcall02Yet two successful business models show what a “shared economy” could look like.

One is AirBnB which allows apartment and homeowners to monetize their unused guest bedrooms by advertising them on a website, adding 500,000 units worldwide to the hospitality industry.

The other example is Uber, a ride-sharing network connecting private drivers via smartphones with passengers, so private cars can now double-up as taxis. The service is available in 100 cities worldwide.

The business model is nothing more than sophisticated forms of shared-care rides with the advantage that car owners can be paid for a route they would have otherwise paid for themselves.

The reality is that an estimated 80 or 90 percent of the time our cars are standing idle in the garage ,at work or some other place. This is a huge amount of under-utilized capital and physical mass.

If we combine the concept of intelligent self-driving cars and the concept of not owning a personal car, a futuristic scenario presents itself: Whenever we need transportation, we punch in how many passengers and belongings need to be transported from point A to point B by a certain deadline. And within five minutes, a self-driving vehicle stops at our doorstep. And we use our iPhone 8 to unlock the vehicle and pay for the ride.

Never again in this scenario do we have to worry about driving, insuring, fueling, washing, maintaining or paying for a car.

We could use our empty garages to play Ping-Pong or whatever other uses we can think of. We could convert three-quarters of parking spaces to parks. And it will finally be safe for bike riders and walkers to share the road with intuitive cars that can sense bikes and pedestrians and anticipate outcomes.

Cops will be freed-up from writing parking and speeding tickets and we could use the time during the ride to text, catch up on the news, read a book or start an early cocktail hour on the way home. And if we share the ride with other passengers, we might even have a personal conversation with a stranger…

Twenty years ago this model would sound like science fiction. Today’s accelerating technology could make it a reality in the very near future.

The only key questions remaining are how much pushback such a sensible-solution will receive from U.S. industries most affected by this model and how Americans will accept this formidable challenge to their identity.

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