Sunday, December 13, 2015

Give a Car Auto Pilot and it asks for a....

For those of you without kids, the title is in reference to a series of books that started with 'If You Give a Mouse a Cookie'.  The books are cute and entertaining, which can be rare in the world of kid's books.  It is a story about a mouse that is given a cookie which leads to a series of events.  Eventually the events circle back on themselves and the mouse is asking for a cookie again.

For cars, I'm not sure if being equipped with auto pilot will be a continuous cycle, but I do believe that it'll lead to some interesting events.

In the course of history, travel has always shaped human civilization.  The affects of railroads crisscrossing America has been well documented.  So too has shipping lanes, horseless buggies and learning to navigate by the stars.  Not to mention air and space travel which continues to shrink our world.

The next step of this constant evolution is upon us.  It's the automated vehicle.  It's easy to overlook the significance of this feat without realizing how it will change everything around us.  At first glance, a driverless car seems silly, almost gimmicky.  Ok, a car can drive itself, how is that better than me driving it?  But it's not the effect of one car driving itself, it's the effect of millions.  Initially, it'll be a battle as we transition into a world of driverless and human driven cars.  It'll seem chaotic and costly, but as more cars become automated, the efficiency will begin to show itself.  Cars will follow traffic rules and work together.  They'll be able to communicate with each other and anticipates turns and changes in speed.  In the long run, this network will deliver people faster to their destination than ever thought possible.  No more waiting on humans to correctly judge a turn or look up from their cellphones and see the green light.  Trucks will be able to carry goods without stopping. They can make long hauls, bringing down ship times and costs.  There will be less accidents and drunk driving.  But despite all of these benefits, they are insignificant compared to the value of the software that will be developed to coordinate them all.

A software complex enough to drive cars, would be sufficient enough to drive drones.  Amazon is already working on creating highways in the skies, but imagine software that will define and follow those highways in an automated fashion.  Instead of piloted drones, we have a system of drones delivering products and clearly defining the new elevated airways.

As we grow to trust both the automated cars and now the automated drones above us, the next step will be simple.  Automated planes.  In particular small passenger planes, similar to drones or the ever fabled "flying car".  The Jetsons suddenly becomes our new reality.  In a world where air travel is simple and cheap, people can live and work anywhere.  It simplifies the travel process which today consists of very little actual flying time.  The world shrinks even more.

All of this begins with driverless cars.  If you give a car auto pilot, then you end up with flying cars.