In New York Times’ columnist Tom Friedman’s recent article, Owning Your Own Future,
he recalls a conversation he had with Brian Krzanich, the venerable C.E.O. of Intel, who said: “I believe my grandchildren will not drive.” Krzanich explains that he believes self-driving vehicles will be fully deployed in 25 years. You will not drive, but program your vehicle’s route and destination with a smartphone, tablet, watch, or something entirely new.
Think of the drudgery that would remove from those long drives, between campgrounds or cross country to visit your grandchildren or national parks, especially when driving a large RV with a vehicle in tow. I admit it takes a strong leap-of-faith to get up from your driver’s seat and walk back to the refrigerator for a cold drink. (I had a European rental client years ago when in the RV rental business that did just that, misunderstanding the cruise control as a self-driving autopilot. Luckily he discovered his mistake and got control of the vehicle before it careened out of control off the road.)
But why and how is this technology accelerating so exponentially fast? In medieval times nothing changed for generations, even mellenia. Much of the rapid changes in our world today can be defined by Moore’s Law, which states that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits will double approximately every 18 months. And it seems that Moore’s law is not only applicable to transistors but to technological advancement in almost every field.
Friedman goes on to say, “If you think machines are smart today … wait a year. It’s this move from 14-nm to 10-nm chips that will help enable automakers to shrink the brain of a self-driving car — a brain that has to take in sensor data from 360 degrees and instantly process whether it’s a dog, a human, a biker, or another car — from something that fills a whole trunk to a small box under the front seat, so these cars can scale.”
It’s not only the drive between campgrounds that will become much less tedious, but being freed up to watch the scenery go by, to stand up and stretch your legs, and once in the campground assist you in moving into your campsite. Self-driving RV-sized delivery trucks are now being real-world tested on roads in Arizona and other states are headed in that direction also. And think of your dingy taking you – rather than you driving – on a scenic tour or to a trailhead for a hike. Just program your vehicle to where you want to go and it will do the rest.
Again – that leap-of-faith is involved here. How many of us are ready to relinquish control of the vehicle to a software-driven robot? But the fact is, in millions of miles of real-world road testing, self-driving cars have proven to be much safer and accident-free than when controlled by human drivers. There are still some kinks to be identified and worked out before self-driving cars (or trucks or RVs) are ready for mass roll-out, but considering the number of car companies rapidly hiring the world’s best engineers and the amount of money they’re investing in the science of self-driving cars, these astute business people are betting big time on it becoming reality – and sooner rather than later.
Are you looking forward to self-driving cars and RVs? What do you see as the stumbling blocks moving forward? Add your comments below.