One of the improvements that many people have been thinking about is autonomous cars. We know that Google is working on autonomous cars. it has been speculated that Apple is also working on autonomous cars.
Earlier this week I was listening to episode 171 of the 99 Percent Invisible podcast titled “Johnnycab (Automation Paradox, pt. 2)“.In that episode they discuss how within 10 to 20 years. As the episode title suggests, they indicate that eventually we will not be manually driving cars and everything will be automated.
One of the ways that this will occur is through small incremental changes. While it is entirely possible that this will occur, I do not think as though this will occur. There are many reasons as to why. This includes people who will prefer to be in full control of their cars. Along with this, I think that one aspect that people overlook. That aspect is how often people buy new cars.
People are very willing to replace their personal technology, like cell phones, computers, and tablets, every two to three years. When they do replace these items, typically these items are not significantly different from the item they are replacing. With phones, computers and tablets, these are generally the same shape and size. The only different aspects may be the speed of the device, storage, as well as some of the capabilities. Users generally understand how these newer devices operate, without much apprehension.
Conversely, one of the things that people do not replace often is their cars. Usually people hold onto cars for many year longer than their personal electronics. According to Kelly Blue Book[footnote]Average length of U.S. vehicle ownership hit an all-time high[/footnote], the average length of ownership of a car is about 57 months, or four year and nine months. Similarly, the average length of ownership of a truck is 129.6 months, or 10.8 years.
When people do buy new vehicles, these are often significant jumps in terms functionality. For instance, in my car, from 2006, there is no bluetooth connectivity, no auxiliary jack, no navigation system, or even remote assistance. Once I buy a new a car, it is very likely that any future car I purchase will have these items. Honestly, all my next car needs is an auxiliary jack and a small spot for a clock.
Now imagine going from a Model-T to a fully loaded 2015 car. One that includes all of the latest technology. For some, this is exactly what the transition from a car that you drive yourself to a fully autonomous car.
It is my opinion that people will eventually warm up to the idea of fully autonomous cars. However, I do think as though it will take longer than 10 to 20 years that was postulated. I think it will likely be closer to 50 years before this occurs. It will likely take the replacement of an entire generation in order to have fully autonomous
While we never truly know what the future holds, it is not likely that everybody will be willing to have fully autonomous cars. There are many reasons. As mentioned above, one of them is that some people will always prefer driving, but even this, as life has always shown, the old way of doing things will always eventually go away. The second is that some will think that autonomous cars should never exist and eschew them entirely.
There are many other aspects that need to be determined before autonomous cars become a reality. One of these aspects is who is liable if an autonomous car gets into an accident and severely injures someone. If autonomous cars are to be a thing, all of these aspects will be figured out, most likely by lawyers.
I do have one last thought, will they the industry call autonomous cars, Autos Squared or Square Autos, or maybe even abbreviate it as Autos2?