Recently Elon Musk, leading global innovator, revealed that all Tesla autos coming off the assembly line for the last couple of weeks have the hardware for hands-free auto driving. As he notes, they have been able to accelerate the introduction of autonomous driving. The general consensus had been that true hands-free driving may be a decade away or at least a half-decade. Tesla is jumping the line.
The self-driving car will, I think, have a profound impact on the future of transportation. It is well known that young people in the U.S. have demonstrated a declining interest in driving and in auto ownership. Given a choice between a smart phone or a car, they will chose the phone. Millennials have contributed greatly to the global move to urban areas, where alternate transportation from transit to walking to Uber is more readily available. This generation notes that time spent commuting alone is generally time wasted, and would prefer to transport themselves in a way that enables continued productivity. Driverless cars, capable of at least taking over while a car is on the highway or freeway, will enable people to turn to their phones and their tablets and to continue working or to engage in socializing. Will this lead to more cars in the commute, and a return to a desire to own a car? Perhaps.
If you want to learn more about autonomous vehicles join us for an MIT Enterprise Forum Northwest on October 29, 2014 at the Impact Hub Seattle, 220 Second Avenue South, Seattle, WA from 5:30 to 8:30 PM. You can register here.