Wired’s cover story in March – “Your Next Car Will Drive Itself” – and the continuation of the topic at 2012 Mobile World Congress has made me twitchy these last few weeks. The concept of a completely driver-free transportation infrastructure is too far reaching for me; it strikes at something core that I didn’t even know I felt conviction toward. Anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m not what one would consider a vehicle enthusiast. While I’m passionate about the global automotive industry, my own vehicle preferences are around such hard hitting facets as “shiny,” “safe” and “comfortable.”
And please read no offense to Google, Mercedes and other early and very interesting innovators in the arena of automated driving – what I’ve seen so far is very cool and certainly complex. Let me state my main reservation – even on the worst days, I love driving. I’m the classic American that loves the freedom, power and control. I feel my car represents a version of who I am, complete with golden retriever fur and sand from weekend adventures with said retriever.
It took Bill Ford’s keynote at last week’s Mobile World Congress for me to eliminate part of the twitch and get more of my brain behind the necessity and advantages of a mostly (not going to say “entirely” – too far, people) automated, global and diversified transportation system.
I give him credit for predicting out to 2050, first of all. What commanded more of my interest – beyond selfish road warrior tendencies – is his articulation of what the world looks like with four billion versus one billion vehicles on the road. He describes the potential of a ‘global gridlock’; one that could be managed by an innovative global transit network of interconnected devices and communications. I don’t hear, nor did Ford fully resolve, a completely driver-less society. Just smarter management, enabled by technology.
Ford further addresses that in pursuing such an endeavor, there is required collaboration and open thinking between automakers, technologists, municipalities and governments – key, key issues around legal liability and privacy. He urged us technologists to specifically weigh in on privacy issues considering our unmatched proximity and experience. It’s an exciting intersection, for sure – just don’t ask me to give up my car quite yet.
-- Tracey Parry is senior vice president at Airfoil Public Relations, a high tech PR agency with offices in Silicon Valley and Detroit.