|Florian K, (Wiki.)|
The car of the future will very likely be self-driving. For much of the time, a driver and passengers will still be aboard the family car. In the early days, a licensed driver will still be required by law, due to the general resistance when any great new thing comes along. However, after a time, people will be able to send the kids to school in the car, and they won’t even have to go along.
The car will become more trustworthy than a human driver. It will be a lot more convenient.
People would rather let the car take the teenagers to the mall, and they get to sit and enjoy a quiet evening at home without the hassle.
The driverless car will be all about convenience.
With companies like Google, Apple and others, with new entries coming along all the time, the driverless car seems like the next big thing.
A driverless car, truck or van makes a lot of sense for retail/distribution systems. While the thought of Amazon delivering books and bananas, guns and butter by aerial drone is compelling, the driverless car looks like a much better bet.
It has a number of advantages. For one thing, the existing infrastructure is good enough to work with the vehicles already designed. A small robotic car could navigate city or country traffic and bring a package to its destination. It would not have to clutter airspace or annoy neighbours with its presence and the perceived violation when it flies over their house. In the warehouse setting, much smaller robots—vehicles for all intents and purposes, follow sensors on predetermined tracks. When they park, they park in designated spots. Driverless vehicles in the real world will be more flexible and adaptable to ever-changing situations. Airspace is crowded, subject to FAA regulations, and also human prejudices. Drones are likely to be perceived as invasive, even pernicious.
A car has a lot more range, and it is nowhere near as subject to weather as micro-aircraft.
People are used to seeing them, and it’s a smaller mental stretch to acceptance.
That’s not to say that an aircraft-carrying vehicle couldn’t arrive at the end of a dead-end road and deploy a drone to take a package further. Once the delivery is made, the drone returns to the rear deck, clamps itself down and the vehicle heads back to the city.
Driverless delivery trucks and vans, transports and dump-trucks, are surely the way of the future, especially in closed-gate operations behind company fences. A robotic dump truck at a mining operation can follow a simple route, and hundreds or thousands can be tracked and monitored, operated if necessary by technical people in a remote control room. This is especially true in Arctic or even Lunar conditions. This cuts down on the number of human workers on site and they are a lot less demanding. It’s cheaper than sending truck drivers to the Moon, with a limited but specialized set of skills.
Delivery vehicles might still have an attendant, at least at first. The attendant is relatively unskilled. It’s purely minimum wage. All they have to do is run a package up the stairs, or knock on a door. Once vehicles are fully autonomous, the labour pool for attendants is much wider. They don’t even need a license. What is even more interesting is the social impact that driverless cars will have. Every person reading this will someday recall when they saw their first driverless car. If it says Google on the side, maybe that’s one thing. But what if it looks like any ordinary passenger car, and it’s going down the freeway?
What will the average person think?
A passenger car with driverless capability would be extremely convenient, and that’s why it will probably come about. Busy world travelers of the future won’t have to worry about expensive parking at the airport, or looking for parking spaces when they work at downtown locations in a major city. It might even be cheaper to set the car on ‘cruise and return’, rather than paying daily parking fees while at work. The higher up the pay-scale the worker is, the more attractive it will become, out of pure convenience. The busy executive could spend his time more profitably elsewhere. Why not send the Porsche to get itself washed while he closes another deal?
People might be sending the car to the convenience store for a quart of milk. A simple card-reader or telephone bar-code feature will be used for payment. People pay with their phones now. The car will provide the store’s system with payment information. A quart of milk and a receipt will be deposited by a robotic arm through the drive-through window and the vehicle returns to home base.
Driverless cars, especially those designed for delivery and other services, don’t need to be as appealing as that most seductive of consumer goods, the automobile as it is presently constituted in our mind-set.
Couriers and Delivery.
But the average courier service already uses a cube-van, it’s much more efficient. It is in fact designed for the job. Future vehicles might be extremely utilitarian for retail delivery, although they would be painted in cheerful company colours and in the case of a grocery operation, might have the weekly specials displayed on the side using thin-film TV screen technology.
When the vehicle arrives at the door with that box of diapers at two a.m. on a Sunday night, the machine calls the customer and lets them know the package is there.
If a specialized delivery vehicle was sufficiently small, it could cruise right up the sidewalk and ring the doorbell. Perhaps walking systems like Big Dog and other canid robots could be used for delivery to odd-ball locations. There are robots that can climb stairs. Customer-delivery might include numerous stairs, steps, hallways, sandy or gravelly terrain, rural, off-road or other applications.
What farmer wouldn’t love a robotic tractor? Simply fill it up, program a set of instructions and the things starts off. The farmer gets in the pickup and goes to the house to get a few hours sleep. For soil preparation, the job is fairly simple. The machine maps and tracks its own progress, the field is mapped into the system and it goes round and round with a disc harrow until the job is complete. Then it goes into shutdown mode.
For more complex operations, harvesting wheat for example, the system requires the combine and an automated, driver-less collections system, basically another driverless tractor or a series of tractors, with the usual simple wagons to collect the grain.
|Lifetec 18, (Wiki.)|
All of this could be monitored from the house, with a laptop, wireless and some simple tele-metric reporting from the machines.
This might not sound all that efficient. All we’ve done is eliminate a few workers—a dozen at most at harvest time. We’ve eliminated a couple of workers at soil preparation, and not much more at planting. But the farmer no longer needs to own his own equipment. Because of its complexity, skilled operators will be contracting their services.
The farmer is no longer required to be a jack of all trades—repairing his own equipment in the field if necessary, all to get the harvest in on time. Now he simply makes a phone call and schedules the operation, perhaps even reserving a ‘fluid’ block of hours bearing in mind the exigencies of weather in agriculture.
In terms of social costs, a driverless taxi will put a lot of drivers out of work, the same is true of delivery drivers. Transport drivers, who are presently limited to ten hours a day of driving, will find themselves quickly displaced in the names of efficiency, and competition. Anything that gets the product to market more quickly—and in the future that means the customer’s hand as much as any storefront operation—lowers the price to consumers and generates increased profits for the business.
Society will change to adapt to new opportunities and new problems. For surely driverless and relatively autonomous vehicles are here, and they're probably here to stay, hairy-chested driving enthusiasts notwithstanding.
There will be unfathomable social changes—people sending the car to take the dog to the park, new ways to car-jack a vehicle that is driverless and presumably fearless of the gun pointed in its face. There will be new privacy issues, liability issues, moral issues when someone sees other people having sex in the back of a driverless vehicle going down the road.
What do you think? Comments are always welcome. Thanks for reading.