Autonomous Transportation of the Future

Tesla's Semi Truck
Tesla's Upcoming Semi Truck

Autopilots are today found in aircraft and Tesla cars. If we took one step further down the road, what would the future of autonomous transportation look like? Here’s our predictions.

Making Money with Your Car

Autonomous transportation: You could probably already imagine the result if Uber and Tesla joined forces. If at the moment you don’t need your car it could go into Uber-mode, picking up customers and making money on the side for you. Uber already have self-driving cars in service and thereby slowly turning their already under-paid drivers’ salary to zero. Taken a step further, truck automation would mean no-one had to drive on hours on end a lá Euro Truck. Tesla will be unveiling an all-electric semi-truck soon, and it will most probably feature autonomous driving. Logistic companies could save billions and billions by slashing the workforce to pieces. Not a very promising prospect if that’s your trade.

Uber's Self-Driving Cars
Uber’s Self-Driving Cars

Roadblocks Toward Automation

Everywhere you look, there’s automation. You see it in self-driving trains but also in less obvious places. Steer-assist and ABS-breaks in cars are automation on a small level. That’s baby steps compared to what shall come. But if we’ve had autopilots in aircraft for decades, why don’t we have airplanes that fly pilot-less? Seems like we still have an inherent view that we’re much safer with a person behind the wheel. Well, first of all we’ve all been led to believe that automation systems can crash, and they do. Though, recent advances in AI and automation at large makes the fail-rate of such systems infinitely small compared to a human driver. A machine won’t feel fatigue, stress, anger but will perform its assigned task in the designated way. Why wouldn’t that be better than a potential human error? The answer is ambiguous because money is involved… If something goes wrong, it’s easier to blame a mistake on a human than a robot. However, considering Google’s self-driving cars have a proven track-record, its just a matter of time until we shift our world view. The only major accidents Google’s cars have been in were involving human drivers that saw an opportunity to make money. They all aimed to sue Google by ramming their car into the robot on purpose. Who’s the better drive now, huh?

Google's Self-Driving Cars
Google’s Self-Driving Cars

How society will change

If enough vehicles goes autonomous, we’ll have less accidents and fewer injured or disabled. That’s been Volvo’s vision for decades and why they’ve teamed up with Nvidia to power their self-driving cars. Another benefit would be less traffic congestion as the following video from CGP Grey shows:

Since autonomous vehicles can start and stop in tandem with the surrounding vehicles, they act almost like a train. Less congestion could mean more cars could be effectively driven on a given road. However, most probably we will need less cars. Quite simply, cars would be an on-demand commodity, instantly available through your smartphone. People’s autonomous cars could zip around cities, picking both customers and goods up, eliminating the need for couriers and the like. This scenario would of course hurt millions of jobs around the world. But the fact is, all industries are affected by automation. Even writers like ourselves may one day see us replaced by an algorithm, carefully summarizing different source material in to a perfect piece of writing. Heck, even doctors might be replaced one day sine AI given enormous swaths of information surely can give a better diagnose than puny humans.

Universal Basic Income

Even if avid speakers like Mark Zuckerberg denies the dangers of AI, there’s no doubt that society will have to adapt to change. Automation and AI are nibbling away jobs at an increasing rate and for society not to collapse, it might be time for universal income. The concept has been proposed by many but adopted by few. Finland is one of the first countries to evaluate basic income for everyone above 18-years. This is independent of current income. The benefits of universal income will see inequalities fade while keeping an increasing class of workers from struggling to find jobs. Of course, only highly-developed societies can implement universal basi income. Until then, we’ll probably see more inequality rather than less…

So, let us hear your thoughts on this guys! Autonomous transportation, people losing jobs and on-demand cars. Does it sound like the future to you?