Unless you’ve been on a desert island for some years, you know that driverless vehicles are right around the corner. The idea is AutoAutos will be safer and more efficient. Commercial applications see real benefits in no longer having to pay drivers who need to sleep. As AutoAutos become extensions of transportation networks like taxis and hire cars, fewer people will bother to own, insure, and maintain their own cars.
Luddites see our highways full of Roombas crashing into each other.
Some driving conditions and situations fit AutoAutos well and some don’t. On superhighways, with limited access points and everyone going in the same direction, it is relatively easy to have vehicles follow each other in a line at the same speed while maintaining a safe distance. It gets harder when traffic is coming, going, and crossing from every direction. And let’s not forget about pedestrians, cyclists, pets, wild animals, potholes, stuff that just fell off a truck, and much, much more.
Apocalypsers see cross-technology incompatibility as a modern version of the biblical Tower of Babel.
There are already many different operating systems used by companies that are used to competing, not cooperating. In today’s cars, the relatively simple electronics in infotainment systems are the single largest source of customer complaints. And these problems are just within individual cars.
What happens when these different operating systems have to be in constant communication with every other AutoAuto and with the control centers?
Can we get a sense of scale here?
There will need to be regulatory agencies and systems that may be somewhat similar to FAA’s air traffic control services, which manage live, real-time information for 100,000 flights every day. Each day there are one billion vehicle trips on US roads. This is ten thousand times more car trips than plane trips. In the US, there are 15,000 airports, which means 225 million possible Point A to Point B airport combinations. In the US, there 120 million homes and apartments, 30 million businesses, and 4 million retail stores, or 24 quadrillion possible Point A to Point B routes to monitor, manage, and coordinate. This is 100 million times more car routes than airplane routes.
Us? We’re going riding with Aretha. Click here if you want to come along.