Every time I drive somewhere I wonder what it will be like when my car drives itself. It’s not that I don’t like driving – it is, after all, one of our most frequent pastimes. There are plenty of skeptics that doubt technology can and will develop to the point where car owners could be sleeping in their back seat while in transit to a destination.
My message? It’s time to shift gears.
We are closer than you think, and, you will love it.
To get a sense of how big a technological disruption the automotive industry is encountering right now, look no further than the 2017 Consumer Electronic Show held in Las Vegas last week.
From the autonomous driver technology to the design of the vehicles to the in-car entertainment capabilities, all areas of the driving experience were on display. While many of these innovations are conceptual in nature and still a ways away from commercial release, the message is clear: the way Americans experience transportation is being revolutionized. Below are some of the notable highlights from CES.
Waymo, a Google self-driving spin-off company, introduced a new driverless technology that can be installed in vehicles. Google’s strategy to participate in the burgeoning autonomous driving industry is aimed at developing driverless car technology that can be licensed to automakers. In-car designs of future driverless cars in particular received a lot of attention at this year’s CES.
BMW introduced a prototype vehicle interior that upends our traditional in-car experience. In driverless mode, the car’s steering wheel retracts and creates more room. The car also has a bookshelf, which could lead consumers to believe that, one day, commuting spaces will be used as a second offices.
Honda’s NeuV concept car integrates artificial intelligence, autonomous driving, and ridesharing all in one. The car comes equipped with “Hana,” Honda’s artificial intelligence aide that picks up on facial recognition cues and even monitors the heart rate of the person sitting in the vehicle. With the driverless car technology, the NeuV could theoretically put itself to work as a driverless ridesharing vehicle while it is not being used by its owner. The best part? The NeuV is programed to automatically return to its charging station when it runs low on electric power.
How cool is that?
Maybe someday my driverless car will drop me off at the mall and I can spend the money my vehicle earns through ridesharing while I shop.
The evolution of the driverless car cannot come soon enough for Americans. Despite all the improvements in driver safety technology, 2015 marked the greatest percentage rise in auto fatalities in the U.S. since 2008. According to the National Safety Council, more than 38,000 people were killed and 4.4 million people seriously injured in auto accidents in the U.S. In Texas, distracted drivers are the cause of one in every five traffic accidents. Distracted driving (mainly texting while driving) resulted in 463 deaths and more than 3,000 serious injuries in Texas in 2015 alone. Driverless technology has the potential to dramatically reduce accident rates.
I say let your imagination go a little wild. Would you rather wait in an airport security line to get from San Antonio to Dallas, or sit/stand in your own vehicle for about four hours? (Yes, speed limits will increase and traffic accidents will decrease to make that possible). On the way, you can read books, watch TV, apply make-up, and even get dressed. Go ahead, text all you want in your driverless car.
The shape, function, and form of your driverless car will drive you a little giddy. Mine will even talk. As I approach, the door will open, there will be a pleasant “Good morning!” and even a reminder to check my lipstick. That will be the life.