The Future of Cars

I’ve been reading and listening a lot about cars and their evolution lately. It’s pretty fascinating.

It seems that three trends are converging to shape our future:

  1. Electric cars are becoming a real option.  This changes the game by making the hard part of building a car shift from making an engine to making a battery. This is a much different, and much easier, problem.  Opens the market to many more and different companies. 
  2. Self-Driving cars.  This has been happening at Google for over a decade. Now Tesla has one, so does Audi and BMW, and Uber has said this is the future and is pouring resources into it. Apparently the only hard parts remaining for self-driving cars to figure out is how to drive in bad weather and how to see through fog and haze.  I’d say that lots of humans struggle in these areas too. 
  3. On-demand cars.  You can call a car at the push of a button.  Uber and Lyft’s come to me  in under 3 minutes now.  They are everywhere and growing.

The mix of all three of these make for some interesting scenarios.  Some quick ones that i’ve been pondering about:

  1. In the future, you own a self driving car.  You go to dinner in the city and it drops you off at the restaurant. It then can drive around the city and pick up people (like an Uber) and make some quick cash.  Will we allow just any self-driving car to do this?
  2. What do the interior of these new self-driving cars look like?  You don’t have to face forward and you don’t have to have a dashboard. You don’t even have to sit up — you could be lying down and sleeping while they drive.  The extra sleep or productive time I would gain from a self-driving car is hours a day week and days a month.  The found time would be incredible. 
  3. In the future, do people even own cars or are there just a lot of on-demand vehicles of them out there that are available on demand?
  4. Self-driving cars have better collision detection that humans.  They can communicate with cars around them and decide on where they are going ahead of time. In that case, do we even have lanes on the road anymore? Do we have stop signs and stoplights?  Are there a lot more bicyclists because you know it’s 100% safe to ride your bike on the road?
  5. Who makes all of these cars? The car industry is $1 trillion. To put that into perspective: the global advertising industry is $500 billion.  The 3 luxury car manufacturers of BMW, Lexus an Audi make up a market about the same size of the iPhone market.  There are very few things in this world that are as big as the car industry. So, you can see why it’d be enticing for Apple to get into this game.

It’s interesting that Uber thinks of the driver as a major cost issue in their platform and getting rid of the driver gets rid of 70% of the costs of a trip.  This is why they are aggressively exploring “smart routes” and Uber Pools as 1.0 version of driverless cars. 

I’ve noticed that some of the people I talk to about this are hesitant or resistant to this future. People love their cars. I know that i do.  But i have to imagine that people use to love their horses too.  In fact, i’m guessing that people liked horses back in the day more than we like cars now.