The other day, another automotive ‘professional’ said to me, “I worry we’re all going to be driving automonous cars in the future and that’ll be the end of cars as we know them (frowny face).” And, right on cue, I lost it.
I went on a rampage on how in modern times, new drivers have entered the automotive space and that has made it much more exciting and how future developments will create new interpretations of what driving/car culture/roadside self-expression really means and it is a future that could be even cooler than what we’ve got today! She gave me the obligatory and familiar “Ok-You-Crazy-Bitch” nod and walked away.
The fact is, when technology & transportation meet, it’s exciting. It can mean a faster acceleration, better brakes or even a car that’s so smart that your life is never in danger (see Volvo’s 2020 pledge). And it can improve people’s lives when they’re not in cars, just ask the guy in the dynamic electric wheelchair or the vet with a badass prosthetic limb. Thus, I was delighted and enthralled when I got to learn more from mobility thought-leaders on my recent trip to NY.
These guys (yes, they were all men, but don’t hold that against them) were all brought in to speak on Connected Mobility by Messe Frankfurt and it was, in a word or two, mind blowing. Now (full disclosure) this was a breakfast event and wasn’t even caffeinated so whatever enthusiasm you detect, remember this is pre-latte, so the reality was much more intense.
Let’s start with the tears. See the guy in the group shot with the glasses? His name is Guy Fraker, he’s the Chief Learning Officer for AutonomouStuff. His talk was really insightful, full of cool charts & graphs about how autonomous transportation is already disrupting things like unions and the insurance industry. He’s a smart, passionate dude, who revealed elements of connected mobility that were entirely new to me. Then he told us about conversation he had with his kid and that’s when it got incredibly real:
Guy: “Son, what do you think about Autonomous Cars?”
His kid: “They’re great, Dad. I can’t wait. I’ll finally get my own car!”
Then Guy tell us: “You have to understand, my son is autistic.”
Wow. I dunno about you, but it hadn’t even occured to me that autonomous cars will allow the elderly, the handicapped, the otherwise incapable (yes, even you Drunk Uncle) access to safe, reliable transportation. If you don’t think THAT’s progress, you’ve got a screw loose.
Next up was RideScout CEO Joseph Kopser who proposed an idea of a “mobility plan” that would be like a cellular plan. RideScout looks at all different modes of transportation in one place. So if you’re in NY– it’ll show the subway, bus, and taxi times all woven together with real-time ETAs & price tags. How many times could I have used THAT in my life?
Lastly, the CTO of Dash showed how their app uses big data to improve the way traffic patterns are managed, drivers drive and cars to be more efficient. This could make our roads safer, greener and less expensive. Sounds good to me.
The bottom line is that better cars alone aren’t the answer to our environmental, financial and societal problems. We need more creative transportation solutions, like the stuff these guys are exploring. And that gets me revved up! As much as I love driving, I do spent a phenomenal amount of time playing under-paid, under-appreciated, border-line abused chauffeur to my children. I’d much rather hire a self-driving taxi. Or, maybe in a few years, having my kids figure out their own way home using a smart app. Does that mean I don’t love my kids? Hell no. Does that mean I don’t love cars? Don’t be ridiculous. What does that mean for car culture? I can’t wait to find out!