At the end of last year, I was at a luncheon with two friends, and we were discussing the amazing period of technological change that we find ourselves going through. I discussed my plans to commence work on this website, and to focus on the change that we were encountering in the Development, Design, Construction environment. My premise at that time was very clear, and has not changed.
Rutt Bridges, who is a successful entrepreneur in the oil and gas industry was in the conversation and expressed his very strong sense that the Driverless Car, which is the subject of a great deal of research and development investment by Google, is probably the technological leap that will have the most profound impact on our Society—and certainly our World. His focus has been on that specific topic and, in fact, the title of this Post is the title of Rutt’s new book. He completed that work and it went live on Amazon as an e-book on May 10th.
Over the past months, I have had the great privilege of reading the drafts and commenting—first with chapters- then the completed book. I am impressed with the research Rutt completed, and I learned a great deal about on-line research and how to incorporate the results into a readable document. I also paid attention to how many times revisions were required to the book driven by the very speed with which the technology was changing – the topic of these Posts.
I recommend this book very highly. It is well written, has many clear illustrations and figures, and also has live links to the specific information Rutt used in the book. The price is $3.00 for the Kindle edition, and given the amount of information Rutt has included—it is a great bargain.
With the author’s permission, I am including the Executive Summary of Mr. Bridges’ book to whet your appetite. It is a great read!
Executive Summary by Rutt Bridges
This book is about the future – the near future.
It tells the story of how driverless cars, summoned using a smartphone app and arriving in five minutes or less, will change how we live. They will cost about 39 cents a mile for a two-passenger vehicle, a fraction of what it costs to own, insure, maintain and operate a personal vehicle. By requesting a rideshare from the dispatch software, customers will be able to ride for half-price, 19 cents a mile, plus gain access to HOV lanes. The national average of 1.08 commuters per vehicle will jump, while congestion declines.
And instead of fighting rush-hour traffic, we will be able to read, watch the morning news, or get an early start on the workday. We’ll have chauffeur-driven service for less than bus fare.
Though trillions of dollars will be saved and most people’s lives will greatly improve, there will also be serious financial and human hardships. This is, after all, a disruptive technology. This book offers an unvarnished view of that future impact so that readers can decide for themselves whether to cheer or jeer. If the news is bad, at least you will have the chance to see this revolution coming, so you can adjust and adapt.
Here is a glimpse of what life in that driverless car future will look like:
Driverless cars will be far safer than any vehicle currently on the road. Unlike human drivers, they are immune to the distraction, fatigue, road rage, impatience, intoxication, and the foolish mistakes that cause 93 percent of all accidents. Accidents will be rare, and in the U.S. alone most of the 30,000 lives now lost in car crashes will be saved every year.
Younger kids will use smartphones to summon a vehicle to take them to and from locations (school, soccer practice, piano lessons, whatever) pre-approved by their parents. Parents will receive a text when their children request a vehicle and when they arrive at their destination. They will independently share rides with parent-approved friends, and groups of parents will organize driverless vanpools for sports teams. Over-scheduled parents will get their lives back. Politicians will be forced to stop talking about soccer moms.
Teenagers, only half of whom currently even bother to get a driver’s license, will continue to care less and less about owning cars. Mobility services will drive them to school and social activities, from dates to evenings out with groups of friends. Parents will save lots of money on cars, insurance and car repairs. Texting while driving will disappear as the leading cause of death for teenagers. Testosterone-addled teenage boys will no longer drive recklessly in their parents’ cars. And an arrest – or worse – for drinking while driving will no longer be a possibility. Families won’t be destroyed by that 1 a.m. phone call.
While commuting, adults will safely use telephones, laptops, or tablets. Some will get a jump-start on work, others will socialize or enjoy a video. They’ll leave work on time knowing they can use their commute to wrap up a report that’s due tomorrow, and will arrive home free of a rush-hour driver’s stress. Plus, since the service is door-to-door, they won’t ever have to worry about parking, or walking in sleet, snow, or rain, and will never get another parking ticket.
When Grandma or Granddad decide to give up their keys, they will not be giving up anything but rather saving money while gaining greater independence. Instead of depending on their kids, they will have more freedom than ever to control their own lives. A lift to the grocery store, the golf course, or a trip to their grandkids’ soccer game will be a few button clicks away. And that means many more years of living independently in the home they love.
Disabled customers will enjoy on-call, door-to-door service in specialized vehicles. The working poor will at last have cheap, reliable transportation, making it possible to get and hold higher-paying jobs. They will also be able to spend more time with their kids instead of wasting time transferring between buses and getting to and from the first and last bus stops. Driverless cars will provide far better transit service than local buses for a fraction of the fare.
Those who drink alcohol will at least travel safely, without fear of the crushing financial and social damage of a DUI, and without risking death or serious injuries to themselves or their innocent victims. And judges will be more likely to revoke the licenses of those who drink and drive, knowing they aren’t imposing unreasonable economic hardships on their families.
Unless gasoline drops below about 60 cents a gallon, these cars will mostly be electric. Decreased burning of oil and increased use of solar combined with newer low-emissions natural gas generators will significantly slow climate change. Eventually utility-scale energy storage systems will make solar the dominant energy source.
These improvements in our lives won’t come without a cost. While families will save thousands of dollars a year by switching from two cars to one (or none), the auto industry will see a collapse of new car sales. Cheap used cars will flood the market. Since each mobility service vehicle can replace about five personal vehicles, far fewer cars will be sold and even fewer maintained. The oil industry will be hard-hit as will insurers and other major employers. Rest assured that this book is not a simple sales pitch on the advantages of driverless cars.
In his comprehensive analysis of the automotive industry, The Great Race: The Global Quest for the Car of the Future, Levi Tillemann observed, “The transition to electric and driverless cars will usher forth a step-change in both quality of life and economic productivity, and potentially be the most transformational social development since the World Wide Web. It will change the way we live and many of the fundamentals of the global economy.”
This revolution is just over the horizon. It will begin in about five years, and its impact will be significant within 10 years. For those who are heavily vested in the status quo and slow to change, the risk is great. Only 67 companies that were on the 1955 Fortune 500 list made it to the 2011 list, and that turnover is occurring at an ever-faster pace. Like Christians in the Coliseum, companies, communities, and you, dear reader, would be unwise to assume you’ll be the watching from the stands.
On a personal note, friends, family and colleagues have asked why I chose this subject. You might wonder as well. Readers should always be careful to understand the background and motivations of authors.
I assure you, I have no dog in this fight. Other than small numbers of shares held indirectly through larger stock index or mutual funds, I have no investments in any of the companies that are discussed.
About two years ago I developed a strong interest in and concern regarding disruptive technologies and the impact they were likely to have on business and society. After some research, including the construction of a few small drones, I was inspired to focus on driverless cars and personal mobility by Chunka Mui’s fascinating tale of disruption, Driverless Cars: Trillions are up for Grabs. My book is the product of the past 10 months of research and writing. It is minimally priced to make it accessible to as broad an international audience as possible. Any profits will go toward supporting research related to the societal impacts of disruptive technologies.