Your car is about to become your concierge. A personal robot. And so much more.
You probably don’t have a lot of time to think about all the things that are going on with the rush to self-driving cars and electric vehicles. I do – that’s my job as a futurist. The things is, you don’t know what you don’t know, until you know it.
So I’m going to let you know!
We are currently seeing a massive acceleration of change hitting the auto industry. I’m doing lots of keynotes around the theme — read Accelerating the Auto Industry in the Era of Self-Driving Vehicles.
What’s next? Here are some things you might not be thinking about:
- the simplicity of the design means more companies enter the car and truck industry. Carbon and gas is tough; electric and tech is much easier. Electric involves a motor, some wheels, and some stuff to connect the two, with a few computers thrown in. That’s a bit of a stretch, but talk to anyone in the industry, and its ‘way easier’. Simply put, the next generation of vehicles is easier to design, engineer, and build, with the result that we will see more organizations entering the space.
- the shift in legal liability is huge. As in, what happens in a crash between an autonomous car and a human-driven vehicle? Who do police take a statement from? Do we impound the data record? If so, from the cloud? Lots of fun is going to unfold in this area!
- partnership is everywhere. The industry is blurring at a furious pace. Coming together are companies in the battery and alternative energy space; telematics and GPS and intelligent highway technology; cybersecurity companies and dozens more. Simply take a look at a few infographics on the number of companies getting involved.
- the future will be full of surprises. For example, who would have predicted Nvidia, long known for making the graphics cards that were at the heart of the gaming industry, is now at the forefront of the self-driving car industry — because of the ability of their technology to process the vast volumes of data that are involved. There are lots more NVidia’s out there, repositioning themselves for this fast future.
- there might be an increase in automated muggings. A self-driving car will be programmed to stop when it senses a human in front of it. Hence, I could merely walk into a road, stand there, and the car will stop. It will then take me a moment to do something evil to relieve the occupants of their valuables. Who will program and mitigate against this scenario?
- route and car hacking will be the next ransomware. Have you seen the experiment where someone placed some concentric circles on a road that totally confused a self-driving car? What happens when the computer virus industry sets its sights on the new computer-car industry? Oh, the places we’ll go and the things we will see (or not see, as it were…)
- there will be data wars. Self-driving cars generate lots of data, and many questions are as yet unanswered. As in, who owns the data, and what can they do with it? People buying, sharing, or leasing cars will be presented with massive “I agree to all terms and conditions” word dumps as they get with their iPhones and software, and they will click away from their right to any of that data. Expect massive new intellectual property issues to emerge, and lawyers who will make a lot of money going forward as these data issues get sorted out.
- the data will be worth a lot of money. Google built a business on search. Car data companies will build a business based on location and navigation.
- you car will become a credit card. At the same time that companies equip cars with cell capability to turn the vehicle into a Wi-Fi hotspot, they’ll also put a SIM card and technology in place that will let the car do an automatic credit card transaction. Apple put Apple Pay into a mobile device, and as the car becomes a phone, it will become an Apple Pay device too! You’ll pay at the drive-through simply by putting your thumbprint on the dash.
- driver education will change. It will move from “how do I drive a car” to “how do I use a car?” Why? Consider a University of Iowa study: 65% of drivers didn’t know how to use adaptive cruise control, and many didn’t even know what it was! Expect befuddlement and bewilderment as cars become computers on wheels.
- watch the drones to understand the future of electric cars. One major form of car innovation today is occurring with battery technology, which is at the heart of electric vehicle technology. Those in the drone space are working hard to figure out how to extend the range of flying drones, and are doing lots of research with new battery technologies that offer extended range through lower weight. This will bleed into the electric vehicle market and will lead to rapid advances in electric car range and a decrease in cost.
- your car will be personalized based on biometrics and technology. – Your car will know who you are when you get in, when you approach it, or when you phone it, and will adjust its settings based on that knowledge. Your car will have a trusted relationship with your mobile device, your fingerprint, and your eyeball. You will start it simply by having it examine your retina, rather than pressing a button.
- the purpose of a car will fragment. Cars today are designed to get you from point-A to point B. In the future, specific cars will be designed for a specific purpose, with the result that the very concept of a car is going to fragment. There will be cars for long-distance vs those built for a short commute; those built for peloton travel (i.e. interlinking with other cars in a pack) vs. those which are engineered to excel at navigation for narrow city streets. There will be cars that will be decked out as a home office for a self-driving commute, and others that will be tricked up to be rolling bedrooms on wheels for tourists. We’ll see lots of new types of cars, with different cost implications the result!
- self-driving cars might obliterate pizza delivery jobs and other activities. Your car will simply go out and get pizza when you tell it too. In this way, your car will evolve to become a personal-concierge-robot, undertaking various activities at your command. Car-as-a-service concepts will unfold.
- big bets are being made, big bets will be lost; Business books will be written in the future as to who won, who lost, and which big bets they made along the way It’s an epic battle between car companies and tech companies, and we are in the midst of a 100-year revolution. One estimate suggests that there are currently 50 major competitors in the space today; that might be reduced to 5 or 6 within a decade.
- video gaming will come to cars. With that in mind, we’ll see video game consoles and controllers built into cars. After all, while its busy taking you to work, you’ll have some time to kick back and destroy a few daemons!
- we’ll see ‘network of cars‘, and network subscriptions will be available. You’ll be able to link to your friends and go off on a self-driving voyage somewhere because your car will link to other cars and you’ll be able to share an automated voyage together. You might find a network of folks in your neighborhood who self-drive to work together, and you’ll sign up to their morning commute, sharing a peloton experience on the HOV lanes in order to reduce your cost.
- car mechanics become computer techies. Geek-squads for cars will be the new normal. We’ll reboot our cars more often than we will change the oil.
- disruption will be fun! Self-driving car tourism will combine Uber and AirBNB into something new. Use your imagination,
- trailers will take on more importance. It will be a growth market — since you’ll have so much more to do with your car, you’ll have to take a lot more stuff with you!
- the steering wheel of today is already is a thing from the olden days. One day, a kid will be born who will be the first to never use a steering wheel, and will never know how to ‘drive’ in the context of driving today. The concept of telling a car what to do will simply seem silly. Maybe that kid is already alive. They’ll only ever know a world in which a car drives itself.
- gesture control and eyeball scanning might be the future of navigation. Didn’t think to tell you where you were going, or are simply going through a new, unknown neighborhood? You’ll simply point or look and your car will figure out where you want to go. Video game developers that excelled at writing human-machine interface code for the gaming industry will find hot new carers in the automotive sector.
- design is shifting from the exterior to the interior. More money will be made on the function, apps, and purpose of things you can do inside the car than outside.
- legacy companies will try to fight the future, thinking it is a marketing war, not an innovation war. They’ll realize it won’t work. Consider Lexus, for example, which doesn’t want to talk about ‘self-driving cars‘ – they want people to talk about “automated safety technology.” Sure. It won’t work.
- race car drivers will complain when a self-driving car wins the Indy 500. Such is progress, but it will take on the form of many other grand challenges, such as 3D printing Michelangelo’s David in concrete, having a robot play in the World Cup of soccer, or a world in which a computer beats a human in chess. (That one has been done.)
- there’s a massive rush for skills : Delphi is hiring 5,000 software engineers and wants to double it in the years to come. Most car companies don’t have the skills they need, and the war for talent will go super-nova.
- self-driving cars will have personalities. You’ll be able to press a few buttons and have it drive like your grandmother, or another button to have it become a race car driver (GPS restricted, of course)
- some car company executives are saying some pretty dumb things right now. Just like CEO’s in the past: Bill Gates at Microsoft (‘640k should be enough for everyone‘); Ken Olsen at DEC (‘no one will ever need a computer in their home‘); IBM’s Thomas Watson (‘computers in the future may weigh no more than 5 tons‘). Smugness and complacency is not a business strategy.
- the stories for the business books of the future surround you right now. Years from today, we’ll have a flood of innovation books and detailed case studies which will compare Deliberate-Detroit vs. Speedy-Silicon Valley. The story is still being written. Right now, there are a few Research-in-Motions about, convinced that heir business model has longevity. Maybe not, and I know who my money is with!
- people will get ticked with highway lanes dedicated to self-driving cars. There are always those who hate the future and progress. But lanes dedicated to self-driving cars will make sense, because they will be able to support big volumes of smart cars, reducing overall traffic growth. San Jose in California is already considering doing this.
- it’s all about the airwaves. If self-driving cars are throwing off 7GB of data per hour, the data has to float through the ether. There will be a huge rush to support new data transmission channels – and smart governments will realize there will be money to be made by auctioning off new spectrum.
- Siri, Alexa and other botnet technology will be everywhere. That’s a simple conclusion, but it will be kind of interesting to be driving next to someone who is engaged in a long conversation with their car.
- networked battery technology will emerge. The big pursuit with mobile phone technology today involves dockless-or-plugless charging : you simply charge your phone through the air. That will eventually come to electric car batteries — and maybe I’ll sell you a little bit of my excess battery energy while we cruise down the highway next to each other
- the evolution of self-driving cars is really a story about Moore’s law. Processing power will collapse on a regular basis, and capabilities will exponentiate. Study the past of the computer industry to understand the future of the auto industry.
- it’s really a big data story with big implications : Tesla already has compiled millions of miles of data about the folks driving its car. The future might be less about the vehicle and more about the data they generate.
- the economic development implications are huge. Industry will relocate to regions that have smart highway infrastructure, excellent re-charging services, and progressive policies when it comes to supporting this revolution. Does your Mayor get it?
- self-driving cars don’t involve just cars. It involves trucks, and tractors, and ships, and planes, farm combines, and boats. It’s not just an era of self-driving cars — it’s an era of autonomous, self-operating things.
- a bunch of other innovations are happening all at once. In fact, there are a whole bunch of parallel innovations occurring with self-driving vehicles, involving such things as advanced energy storage technologies and methodologies, energy microgrids, robotics, and AI, deep data and analytics, smart highway technologies, advanced materials, and so much more. And just as with the space program, all of these developments are leading to other new opportunities, industries, and new billion-dollar industries.
- outsourced driving will be a thing. Your car might have the smarts to drive for you. Or, if it is a complex route and it doesn’t have the smarts, you’ll simply be able to outsource the driving to someone on the other side of the world. “Leave the driving to us” will take on new meaning.
- your car will know when its going to break down and will tell you. It will also tell the auto company or local computer geek. Maintenance models will turn upside down through prognostic diagnostics.
- there’s a massive skill set shift underway. As in, this ain’t your father’s carburetor! The new skill sets in automotive will involve electronics, programming, electrical circuit mastery, advanced route optimization insight, and so much more!
- the future of the industry might be determined by a geek in a garage. Just like the computer industry and HP, the future of the car industry might unfold by some hacker hacking away with big dreams and big visions. Such as, say, comma.ai
- modularity will be a thing. In fact, the very concept of ‘fixing a car’ might go by the wayside. We’ll see more modular technology — parts that you simply drop in to replace another one that has gone bad.
- no one is talking about open source vs. closed source cars. Linux vs. Microsoft anyone? As cars become computers, some people believe that they should be built on an open source foundation, because this will be the best way to provide for reliability and safety. 20 years ago, the running joke was that if Microsoft built the operating system for the car of the future, the car would shut down in the middle of the highway randomly, and the dashboard would simply say, “General Car Fault.” Open source concepts will quickly come to the car industry, and could be pretty disruptive. Watch the video below – I was talking about this in 2004!
- faster obsolescence will be a reality. Cars will take on the innovation curve of the smartphone: you’ll replace them every 24 months or less. In the same way, your car will become a fashion statement: disposable, instant, with the result that cars will a new form of fashion. With that, resale values will collapse — who wants to be seen driving around with an old outdated car, using an outdated iPhone 4?
- we’ll see a lot of stranded assets throughout the auto sector. For example, what happens to all those lube/tire replacement/auto repair facilities? Smart entrepreneurs will figure out smart things to do with all that infrastructure.
- it’s all about the penguins. Simply put. Read the post.
- Amazon might own a big chunk of the future of highways. Not the physical part, but the data part. Right now, they have a few significant patents, including one which involves the allocation of highway lanes. Expect HOV-as-a-service business models!
- not many people realize that light poles are a big part of the self-driving car future. Your average local light pole is changing: it’s become a Wi-Fi hotspot, a car charging station, and a ‘FitBit for a City’ with environmental monitoring capabilities built-in. People who understand the evolving role of light poles also understand they can be a big thing in terms of the future of smart, interconnected highways and streets
- no one is talking about smart highway technology, but there is a lot happening there. The future is not just about how the fact that the cars that drive on highways are gaining intelligence, but the roads they drive on are becoming intelligent too. Highways will be built with embedded sensors, network technology, and other gear that will interact with smart cars to provide the best
- the really smart people in the industry are carefully reading an older book. It’s called Traffic, and it’s all about the science of traffic jams. Figure out how to program your way through the inefficiency of traffic jams, and you’ve got a product or service that people are willing to buy!
- spatial data bubbles are a thing, and you’ll learn about them. You’ll be immersed in a lot of spatial data bubbles and if you understand that, you’ll understand the future. You don’t know what they are? Learn about them!
- get ready for zombie cars. I bet you haven’t even thought of that one!
- robotic highway cones will be a thing. I’ve been talking about them since 1995, and no one has built them yet. I still believe it will happen, just like perfect microwave popcorn did. Watch both videos.
Is this all a bunch of foolishness? I don’t think so.
In 20 years, we’re all going to look back and go, ‘Whoah! That was fast!’ Like I say below – fasten your seat belts – it’s going to be quite the ride!
Crazy talk? Not to me in 2006 – listen to what I had to say!