Often talked about is the visionary future of cars – autonomous, sleek, tech-refined beasts that will navigate us effortlessly as we catch a few Z’s or check up on our feeds. Seldom talked about is the reality we’ll face when they actually become mass-produced, shifting the world & way we move within it in more aspects than just ‘ride-feel’. I’ve been following the progression of the auto industry, commentary, and regulations rather closely and I want to spread some interesting ideas regarding the future of our automotive landscape.
There are 2 in particular that I find to be truly worth a share, both pertaining to the ways in which car manufacturers & consumers will learn to interact. It’s obvious that there are opportunities for advancement and refinement all over the transportation industry, here are a few ideas that I think you’ll find interesting:
Potential Future 1: Leased Autonomous Ride Sharing
Paul Barter released a report in 2013 sharing his findings & opinions on consumer automotive behaviour, attempting to solidify the statistic that modern day cars sit for approximately 95% of their time under ownership. With the amounts paid in insurance, leasing/financing fees, and oil changes/gas, amongst others, you’d think consumers would be practically living in them – these expenses added up on a monthly basis can run you almost as high as your mortgage payments! This clearly isn’t the case though. Obviously, people don’t always need to be out on the road, and as such, their cars don’t need to be either.
But what if our cars drove themselves? Would that not create an infrastructure allowing for the alleviation of the need to have one sitting for 95% of the time?
What if automotive companies – Audi, Mercedes, Ford, BMW, etc., created a platform in which no one actually owned their cars? It would diminish the need for parking spaces, reduce city street congestion, and divert mass-waste. It would be accustomed to a gym membership for transportation, giving you what you need when you need it (i.e. a place to workout) but never requiring you to do anything but show up (i.e. not needing to have a home gym). It would be your own personal valet – while simultaneously being everyone else’s too. It would work as such:
You’d pay your monthly membership to whichever automotive maker you fancy (more $$ for the luxury cars, less for the generic lines), and that membership would give you access to your car. Everyone who signs up will need to fill out a questionnaire stating their driving habits – approximately how often they’ll need the car, what schedules already exist in their lives, so on and so forth. The automotive group would then use algorithms to determine how many fleets of vehicles it needs out at any point of the day to cover the expected demand, and never more (the assumption being that if we can create supercomputers smart enough to beat the worlds greatest Go player, we can surely create one smart enough to predict car usage patterns).
You would call your car as though you were calling an uber & it would arrive at your door in a matter of minutes. It is now yours for as long as you need it – whether it be a quick run to the grocery store or a trip halfway across the country – it is your car, remember? the difference though is that it doesn’t sit curb-side the moment you’re finished using it, you simply get out and watch as it carries itself off into the spaceship-lined sunset.
The car will then travel back to the local dealership for a cleaning as a fresh car makes its way back onto the streets, the cycle of never-idling cars staying continuous. Because of the 95% car-park rule, car manufacturers will never actually need to make enough cars for each person in the program – a mass of idle cars will be an issue of the past.
It’s in the consumers best interest because it offers them the chance to own a car as though it were leased, but would strip them of any maintenance/parking/ownership expenses. Obviously, the monthly amount paid would be calculated using a combination of miles driven, fuel consumed, and car-damage/repairs required, amongst others, but it would allow care-free ownership in a way that isn’t currently possible.
It’s in the manufacturers best interest because they can service an entire marketplace of car-owners without needing to produce an entire marketplace’s worth of cars. Their expense structures would shift from mass production to logistical fleet management and car-maintenance/cleaning, rewriting the ways in which they operate and opening up the doors to all-new streams of revenue.
Now, obviously, there are a lot of details not covered in this skim-the-surface idea, however, a reality in which autonomous car-sharing exists may not be as far away as we think. I know I may sound like a lunatic with an idea as grand as this, but I’ve seen crazier things happen.
Potential Future 2: Data Mine-Field
We’ve all become familiar with location services on our phones & accessories, so much so that there has practically been a social acceptance surrounding the idea that app, wearable & tech-makers will know where we are at practically all times of the day. The strange thing is that most don’t seem to be bothered by it. I suspect that this disconnect has in part to do with the lack of engagement on the behalf of data-collectors – they know where we are at all times but seldom make it noticeable. There is a level a separation, a disconnect between what we grant them access to and what they actually obtain.
It then raises the question as to whether or not their engagement would be beneficial. What if your phone could tell you that the store you spent 2-hours in last week is having a sale? Or that the restaurant you visit 3-times a week is trying out new specials? It would appear that your quality of life would be enhanced by the assistance, actively preventing you from needing to keep up with everything, or anything at that point – your phone would just do it for you.
This is where the new generation of cars slides its way it.
I read a report several months ago on Bloomberg that spoke about new data-driven car operating systems focused on marketing & promotion, cars in which the dashboard interfaces would act as moderators between businesses and drivers. It may sound odd at first, but the idea would work as follows:
You would purchase a base level car, and in exchange for additional features (i.e. sunroof, heated seats, backup camera) you would give the car company permission to sell your screen space. The sale would allow companies to track your location & make offers to you along the way, months and years after you’ve actually purchased the vehicle. Passing by a pizza joint at 5pm that your GPS says you visit often? Queue the BOGO coupon on your display screen. The car companies will be able to recover the costs of their free-features through the ad revenue generated and organizations will be able to better engage with their target audiences – it’s a win-win. It also works out (somewhat) well for consumers – they are constantly being given the opportunity to save money without having to actually look for ways to save money.
It may sound and seem like a complete invasion of privacy – if you currently stand opposed to the idea I assure you that you’re not alone. The way around this, of course, would be to either opt out of that feature (and forego the perks that come with it) or pay for all of the added features you want in your car. Both of these are quite reasonable, but it’ll depend on how strong you are with resisting free perks at the time of purchase.
I italicize free because the thing you’re giving up is simply as small as the rights to ALL OF YOUR DATA. To each their own, I suppose.
Both of these ideas are fun to chew over, maybe take them with you and see what variations you can come up with. I’m trying to get you to think about the future of tech-based, autonomous cars as more than just sleep-mobiles, they’re going to have a larger impact on our everyday lives than we currently think.
Let me know your thoughts.