I came across an interesting article the other day written by the guys over at Future Crunch, on Carmageddon – the idea that cars as we know them today are changing so completely and so rapidly that it will fundamentally reshape the way that we move in modern society.
The idea is that three technologies have been developed to a point that has created the right conditions for a profound technical disruption. These three technologies are: the smartphone, the electric vehicle, and artificial intelligence.
“Recent studies from Bloomberg, the London School of Economics and Stanford University have all pegged the date of the confluence of these three technological waves at around 2020 or 2021.”
Here are some of the author’s key points:
  • The true revolutionary achievement of the electric vehicle is the drivetrain. In an internal combustion engine, the drivetrain is comprised of 2000 parts whereas an electric vehicle drivetrain has 20. This results in a much longer lifespan and lower maintenance costs.
  • The ability to hail a car and a driver using your smartphone, combined with advances in artificial intelligence and autonomy, will herald a new era of cheap, autonomous, ride hailing services.
  • Because these autonomous, shared, reliable & durable electric vehicles are able to operate 24/7, they are able to transport 10 times more people given the same number of vehicles. In short, far fewer cars are needed to do the same work – think lower emissions, less pollution, more road capacity, fewer traffic jams.
Whilst the above points paint a striking picture of the near future of mobility, I believe the authors have failed to appropriately consider several key, human factors in their assessment. As such, I have a few questions for us to consider:
  • Despite the fact that the technology required for this mobility revolution has already been developed, will people be prepared to embrace these advances with open arms?
  • Will governments and regulators be able to legislate and regulate these advances in the timeframe that the author suggests? I think this will likely be a game of ‘catch up’ for the regulators.
  • Who is going to own and operate these autonomous electric vehicles? Will it be the big corporates like Uber, Apple, and Google? Or will we be able to each own a little money-making autonomous taxi? Perhaps communities will be able to collectively own and run these networks too.
Furthermore, given the glacial pace of change in Australia in environmental policy more broadly, will we be able to adapt and adopt these technologies in line with more progressive countries? In the current Australian political climate, it seems more likely that we will continue to lag behind the rest of the world.
Whatever your thoughts on the points I’ve discussed above, the article is sure to get you thinking. Here it is:
Future Crunch is an organisation that’s focussed on helping people understand what’s on the frontiers of science and technology, and what it means for human progress. If this is the kind of stuff that gets you going, I thoroughly recommend checking their website out – they have some really thought-provoking content.

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