As the end of the year beckons, it's helpful to take stock of what went well in the past year
Autonomous Cars: When?
This last week Elon Musk predicted that we are going to see a 20-year disruption of the traditional car market, and that after that time period all new vehicles are going to be capable of autonomous driving. We've talked about Elon and Tesla before, so his bold predictions are not a surprise. What might surprise you are the obstacles preventing the future that Minority Report predicted, with its door-to-door driverless promises.
What's working right now
Google and Tesla are way ahead of the game in using real-world data to improve their software. Google cars have been mapping the world for years now and using all that driving experience to get closer and closer to perfect driving, and every time that a Tesla is put into "auto pilot" mode it is recording millions of data points which it feeds back into Tesla's main computers which, along with machine learning, make each car better and more capable. At some point we may see an aggregated open source database in which all autonomous vehicles report data to improve the collective artificial intelligence of the cars driving us.
What's not yet online
We do not yet have car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communication. That is necessary for the next big leap forward. When cars can "talk" to other cars, as well as to stoplights, bridges, etc. the risk of accident while being driven by these vehicles will move towards 0%.
What we still have difficulty accounting for
But the biggest problem with safety? Us. Human drivers and pedestrians can behave in erratic and irrational ways, and hence we are the wild card. Two summers ago a Google car, correctly stopped at a light, was rear-ended by an inattentive driver. That's why we can't have nice things, for the moment.
Autonomous cars are no longer the stuff of science fiction. There are metros in Dubai, Paris, and Los Angeles (just to name three) that all run on driverless technology and carry passengers every single day. Lexus, Mercedes, and BMW are all working on their own versions of these vehicles, with BMW rumored to be the automaker partner of the secretive Apple car. The question isn't if these will happen, but when, and how our society will be transformed by this next shift in our technology.
How do you feel about autonomous cars? Would you feel safe getting in one today? Do you think you will in the future? Tell us below to get a coupon for a 5-course hair service to gift to a friend who you want to introduce to The Gents Place.
About Ben Davis
A serial entrepreneur, Ben Davis is founder of The Gents Place and a leading investor in gentlemen's refinement and confidence.
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