Once upon a time in the 80s, a kid named Marty McFly hopped into a time traveling DeLorean and paid a visit to 2015 - a distant age filled with all sorts of insanely futuristic things like weather control, hoverboards… and flying cars. Now that 2015 is just around the corner, you may have asked yourself: “Where’s my flying car?” The reality is, the future dreamed up by a group of Hollywood writers for Back to the Future II was a bit overly ambitious. But that’s not to say that transportation isn’t poised to take a quantum leap forward in the form of fully automated, driverless cars.
For a visual example of this, take a look at this video that shows the prototype self-driving car from Google. This is a project that the ubiquitous Google has been working on for years, and one that many now say will revolutionize the world of commuter travel in the very near future.
Already, a number of major auto manufacturers - including Ford, Volvo and BMW - have jumped on the bandwagon and are working on refining the technology that’ll make it possible for people to settle into their cars, program their desired destination, and let the vehicle do the driving. Self-driven cars will even be able to park themselves, shaving precious minutes from everybody’s daily haul.
Convenience is only one factor; safety is another. Considering driver error and poor judgment are responsible for the vast majority of car accidents in the world, the idea of a fleet of computerized cars delivering us to our destinations could potentially save millions of lives per year.
Lives and time are not all that could be saved by an automated transportation system. By virtue of the fact that they will be fully automated, driverless vehicles will likely evolve into smaller, more intimate versions of mass transit - enabling travelers with similar destinations to share rides. Like smart elevators, people could enter in their destination remotely before being assigned to a car with others who are heading in the same direction. The possibilities for increasing efficiency are endless.
Environmental proponents see automated vehicles as a win-win that will result in far fewer cars on the roads emitting pollutants, and infrastructure planners view this as an opportunity to save billions on roadways, which will otherwise need to expand indefinitely to accommodate more cars.
The IEEE Spectrum lays out a convincing argument as to why cars with driverless technology will be an option by the year 2024 - and possibly mandatory within another 20 years of that. But not everyone is as optimistic about “robocars” taking over fully. Lux Research projects that self-driving cars will be an $87 billion industry by 2030, but it believes none will have reached “full autonomy” by then.
With a slew of cars already on the market offering accident-avoidance features like front crash protection and blind spot detection, there’s no denying the intent of auto manufacturers to offer vehicles that significantly cut down on the risk of human error. Whether or not this will lead to a world where driver’s ed is no longer required learning is anybody’s guess.
And whether the future holds a world where cars drive themselves or they continue to be driven by humans, Openbay will be here to repair and maintain them. While your car may be a robot, you’ll still need a real, live person to work on it, and Openbay will help you find and book repair and maintenance work at a trustworthy shop and at a fair price.
What do you think about the possibility of a transportation infrastructure driven entirely by “robot” technology? Should automated vehicles eventually be mandatory - or would this infringe upon our uniquely American traditions? We’d love to hear your feedback. Share your opinion in the comments box below.
Image Credit: Fox Totorus, Flickr.com