Predictions on Self-Driving Cars


 “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” —Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln’s quote started me thinking about the future, specifically self-driving cars and my role in creating a future with them.  For example, if my car is driving me home from work, is there any reason that I can’t enjoy a glass of red wine during the trip? Duh, no! If so, then somebody needs to invent a car-based wine cave. Well, not a cave per se; more like a fridge. Even good red wine is awful if exposed to temperatures over 100 degrees. You know how hot a car can get when parked in direct sunlight.

Wait a second. Autonomous vehicles don’t need to park, at least not in traditional garages or parking lots because:

  1. The vehicles will be in operation most of the time, not just 2% as they are today and
  2. They will travel to more cost-effective parking areas (what I’m now dubbing “pausing areas”) outside of cities.

John Paulson, of Paulson & Co., made gazillions of dollars by predicting the housing crisis and then betting against the sector. It’s time to short sell parking garages. Soon, they’ll be worth less than the land they’re built on.  (Contact me if you have a strategy.)

Back to my car-based wine cooler. If I own my car (a big ‘if’), no problem. My perfectly chilled wine will be waiting when my car picks me up.

If I still own a car, I can put it into the Uber / Lyft / Maven / Waymo / Apple pool so that it can earn money for me when I’m not using it. When people find out it’s is equipped with a wine cave, my rating will rocket to 5-stars.

In the more likely event that I don’t own a car, how will my wine get into my ride at the appointed hour? There needs to be a service for that! While we’re at it, why should I bear the cost of UPS or FedEx delivering my Blue Apron meal packages directly to my home?  Free delivery … right! We all know it’s baked into the price. Just get the ingredients for tonight’s dinner into the trunk of my ride. I’ll get it home.

Interestingly, my chance of an accident on my way home will be exponentially less than today (humans are bad drivers; computers are not). As such, we need to short auto body shops, auto insurance companies, life flight helicopter services, and ambulance-chasing lawyers. Hey, I’m starting to really like this future.

And, because of humans’ slow reaction time, we need a 2-second distance between cars. Let’s do some math. An hour has 3,600 seconds, so each lane on an interstate highway can handle at best 1,800 cars per hour (3,600/2). No wonder we’re always stuck in traffic. Computers can react in microseconds, but for fun, let’s say they’ll need 100,000 microseconds of separation (AKA 100 msec) between vehicles. Ignoring the factor of speed, one lane on the highway might soon handle 36,000 vehicles per second. Goodbye traffic jams.

Travel time won’t matter if I am a knowledge worker. Essentially, my commute vanishes. Today, I define my commute as my time getting to and from work. Once my vehicle is piloting itself, I can start working as soon as I climb in. Drive time becomes almost irrelevant. I’ll work from 8 AM to 5 PM and be home from 5PM to 8AM. Commute time: zero!

Once my vehicle is piloting itself, I can start working as soon as I climb in. Drive time becomes almost irrelevant. Click To Tweet

So, where will I want to live? Proximity to the office becomes almost irrelevant. Will the millennials reverse course and begin moving back out of the cities? My eight ball says ‘yes’.

While we’re at it, what’s my vehicle? For any given ride (it will no longer call a ‘drive’), I can request anything I want. On date night, I think I’ll have a Tesla. Otherwise, maybe I’ll go Chevy Volt. Indeed, nobody needs to own a car.

If there are many of us who would enjoy riding in 1965 Mustang Convertibles, then somebody needs to run a fleet of them. We’ll also need a fleet of Model T’s, and a fleet of 1957 Ford Thunderbirds. Somebody needs to build a kit to retrofit older vehicles for autonomous navigation.

Oh, by the way, you know that 3-car garage you so badly needed when purchasing your current home? Soon that’ll make you look like a caveman, used in the gender-neutral sense of course (“caveperson” just doesn’t do it for me). It’s time to start redesigning your garage as a proper man cave, used in the gender-specific sense.

Those are just a few of my predictions about our autonomous vehicle future. What do you want to create?

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