That’s nearly how long the average driver in the United States spend every day commuting to and from work (source).
Our dependence on cars is also growing; in 1960, about 41 million workers commuted by private automobile. By contrast, in 2009, that number was a whopping 120 million.
One hour! The time spent driving each day is hardly productive, since we’re generally focused on driving and nothing else.
Oh, we do try to make it productive, much to our detriment…
What the Epidemic of Distracted Driving Tells Us About the Near Future
Everyone knows that distracted driving causes accidents—but did you know it’s on the rise? Knowing that won’t stop you from answering an important phone call on the drive home, will it?
Why do I say that? Because you’re a modern human, living in the Age of Access. You’re addicted to being connected with the world—as thoroughly as I am.
Whether you’re eating a sandwich, putting on makeup, chatting on the cell, texting, Googling directions, or fiddling with the radio or iPod, you probably can’t stand the idea of missing a chance to be productive while driving. Don’t feel bad; we’re all like that to varying degrees. The modern human habitually strives to be more productive, in less time.
As a result, we’re more uncomfortable with just sitting still. We’re afraid of boredom!
What does all this mean?
Our psyches are absolutely ready for technology to take over the act of driving—so we can spend that time doing something else. And, thanks to Google’s hard work, that technology is here.
You’re not seeing autonomous cars in the streets because the economics haven’t caught up—yet. Once autonomous cars pass a certain threshold of affordability, they will become wildly popular. We will latch on to them like we latched on to personal computers, cell phones, and iPads.
The First Autonomous Cars
They will likely be prohibitively expensive, reserved for the wealthy.
But then the Model T of this century will arrive.
It might be called the Model X. It will be artificially intelligent, safe to an unprecedented degree, and irresistibly attractive. It will symbolize innovation and freedom, and the magic of science fiction come to life. It will trend like a Ford Model T, ’57 Chevy, or Type 1 Beetle.
(Author’s note, 6/15/14: Almost two years ago, I envisioned that a company would pay homage to the Model T legacy with a “Model X.” I thought it would be a driverless car revolution. Today a big company is indeed invoking the name “Model X,” but it’s in an electric revolution, not a driverless one. Tesla says their Model X is due in early ’15. Are they honoring the Model T, or are they just following the standard set by the Model S? Was the Model S honoring the Model T? I find it hard to believe a car manufacturer would consider a name like “Model S” without seeing the similarity to the first widespread car.)
Everyone will want an autonomous car, and most will get one.
Imagine what you’d do with an extra hour of free time each day.
Women. What would you do during the commute to work, if you didn’t have to drive?
Makeup, of course!
Men? You’d watch the news, or get a head start on work—unless you’re a man below the age of 25… in which case you’d sleep on the way to work!
I’m totally stereotyping here. But there’s no question that gender will play a part in how autonomous cars are used.
To see what I mean, next time you’re in a corporate office, notice how different the female’s office or cubicle is from the male’s:
The female’s work area tends to have more decoration, shelves and mirrors, plants & flowers, and drawers packed with useful accessories (medication, kleenex, chapstick, etc.) to handle every situation. It tends to be an environment that’s made for living in.
The male’s work area tends to be either organized yet sparse or incredibly unorganized and packed; maybe with an inspirational picture on the wall, and trophies, certificates, and other relics of past successes. Either way, it tends to be an environment that’s made for getting work done in.
Yes, there are exceptions to these rules.
The point is that people will project their “daily” personalities on their autonomous cars, their mobile offices.
And what glorious mobile offices they will be. 🙂 I have peered into the future and used my best judgement to guide my imagination. I am thrilled by what I’ve glimpsed, and I can’t wait to show you. Read on.
Start from the beginning →
Driverless Cars (Part 1/6): Google’s Cars Will Change Everything