Things are changing quickly with the way in which we use vehicles in our everyday lives. Technology is making leaps and bounds. It is even more evident that a shift is changing, when companies like Tesla are giving away their patented ideas to their competitors (and the world). Could the future of vehicles be electric, driverless, and mostly on-demand? Will it be common for people to own vehicles in 200 years? 100 years?
Let’s take a step back and look at what has happened recently to make these ideas possible as we look forward to the future.
Electric cars are nearly mainstream
For quite some time, the car industry has been waiting on bated breath for Tesla to announce the full details of the much-anticipated Model III — expected to be released in either late 2016 or more likely sometime in 2017.
The amazing thing about this car? A powerful, electric car is is finally becoming affordable to the mass public. And practical! The Model III is expected to come in around $35,000, almost half the price of the Model S. It is expected to go over 250 miles on a single charge. Not bad!
Tesla isn’t the only company creating electric cars. In fact, pretty much every vehicle company hoping to survive the next century are getting into the game. Volkswagon, Ford, Nissan, BMW, Daimler, Toyota, Fiat, Kia, Honda, Mitsubishi, Volvo, are all getting into the game, to name a few.
Every day we are getting closer and closer to electric cars becoming the norm, which is good for environmentalists, but may also be practical for the cost-conscious out there as the technology gets better. What’s next, electric spacecrafts?
Driverless cars are officially a thing
In the video below, Elon Musk predicts that, sooner than later, all new cars will be produced as self-driving. You can see his thoughts on that at around the 17-minute mark in the video below.
Musk, being the visionary that he is, goes a step further to predict that this will be the case in 10-15 years! Tesla is putting their money where their predictions are, and are betting on all of their vehicles becoming fully autonomous within the next half-decade. Crazy.
So who else is currently developing driverless cars? Google was one of the first-movers on this idea, and is a leader in this category. But now that the ice has been broken, everyone is getting on board.
Just like electric cars, there is a race to produce it as a viable technology. Similar to electric cars, it seems that every major company is trying to get into the game. Even Apple has started dabbling in this field. While other companies are experimenting with this technology, we are likely still decades out from seeing 100% driverless cars on the road.
However, having artificial intelligence in control of a fast-moving vehicle, on a a road with other human drivers, is very complex. Even if all cars were controlled by AI, it would still be a challenge. There are an infinite number of variables that could occur while driving; such as parts falling off, a deer running across the road, bad weather and more. These are hard problems are not easily solved.
It also comes with a deep ethical dilemmas. The main one is around decision making: when to turn left, when to turn right, or when to stop completely, when each has it’s own probability of causing injury or death to the people involved.
The techology has a long way to go, but it’s headed in that direction with lots of funding behind it.
Vehicles on-demand are making ownership less necessary
There is much speculation about the future of how, when and why we will own vehicles. Google co-founder, Sergey Brin, feels it is fairly inefficient to own a car when you account for space issues, parking etc, road use etc. For those interested, he talks about this topic during a 2014 interview with co-founder Larry Page, at roughly the 22-minute mark of the video below.
A trend we are experiencing in major cities are on-demand car rental services, such as Car2Go, AutoShare and Zipcar. Then there is Uber and Lyft, making it more affordable every day to travel without owning as car. You can even carpool now with complete strangers – something that won’t be unusual in just a few short years.
Living in Toronto, it is hard to justify owning a car when I can rent one by the minute or by the hour, at any time, within a 5-minute walk of my condo. The price I pay to rent these vehicles includes the cost of gas, insurance and parking. And it’s only around $15/hour, or $0.40 per minute!
What does the future hold?
No one knows what the future really has in store.
For my money, I would predict that–as trends are indicating–vehicle ownership will decrease gradually over time. However, driving is just too much fun to give it up all together, so I think we will always own vehicles, at least for recreational purposes if not for functional usage.
To me, it seems apparent that for as long as on-demand transportation services, electric cars and driverless technology are becoming cheaper, faster and more reliable, they will become more prevalant as alternatives. For now, it’s just fun to watch this world unfold.
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