If, in 20 years…


If, in 20 years, a car looks like what it does now but with an electric motor, I’ll be disappointed. I’d be amazed if cars still had steering wheels, or the concept of a driver.


I’m not convinced by this notion, at least the 20 year part. It makes perfect sense to expect no steering wheel or a driver, but in an industry that has remained stagnate for so long it feels like a very short time. Then again, when things change in old industries, they tend to change very quickly.

What do I know? Lets here your thoughts…

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14 replies

  1. Yeah, I could think of different seating arrangements, almost like mobile conference rooms, or with couches?
    (Of course I guess we’ll still need seatbelts…)

    Still, while i can see this going great on highways and even in town, it’s hard to envision a system smart enough to deal with a parking lot. Even the UI issue of getting the passenger to clearly express what their intensions are…
    …actually I take it back. I vaguely remember a WSJ article ( https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-end-of-car-ownership-1498011001 but I ain’t paying to actually see it) pointing out that the assumption I’m making that might prove to be wildly anachronistic is that of current day fashioned car ownership (hell – even with cars that look owned, in the USA 1/4 of those are leased) So my thought of “jeez, how will they park” is simple- they won’t. They’ll just zoom off to the next Uber/Lyft style engagement.

    So from there we can make some guesses… if this model becomes predominant might need much less parking near popular destinations, and maybe can reclaim that space.

    Continuing this extrapolation…. man. If some identity theft (or Black Mirror “reputation hit”) scenario happened, that could be radically disempowering. Timothy Leary wrote “Mobility is Nobility”, and the concept of all medium-long range transportation options being so centralized is a little frightening to this “Rugged Independence” respecting (but still left-leaning) American… and the vulnerability to hackers also gives one pause.

    (heh, it also brings to mind The Duke of Wellington, on early steam railroads: “They will only cause the lower classes to move about needlessly.”)

  2. Look at the requirements for the average “family” vehicle or transportation device, assuming it’s for private use. It needs to carry 4 people. It needs space for stuff – luggage, groceries, etc. It needs to be fairly aerodynamic and protect the passengers from the wind and weather. Not necessarily aesthetically, but for efficiency. It also has to be able to run on the roads of the times.

    Maybe no steering wheel or driver, but I’d be surprised if the general shape is that different.

  3. I think that there’s fantastic opportunities for innovation here that can be imagined if we assume that people no longer own their cars and they’re ordered on demand. If that’s the case, when you order the car, there’s the opportunity to say what the car is going to be used for. Is it a one person commute? Or is it the school run? Is it going to be 100 miles down the motorway? Returning from B&Q or Ikea? This will potentially determine the form of the vehicle – a motorway journey will benefit from an aerodynamic form whereas you just need a box with seats to get the kids to school.
    Luggage space could be standardised too, both in terms of suitcases and boxes to store gear. You keep the gear in the box in your outbuildings (I was going to say garage!) and the load it into the car knowing what will fit the vehicle in advance.
    I also wonder about the possibilities of slipstreaming on motorways – if the cars are controlled by AI, can they manoeuvre to close the gap between vehicle, with the cars communicating among themselves. Think road trains…
    I’m looking forward to it.

  4. Does nobody drive for pleasure? I have a big, practical car for the daily commute which is comfortable, but never fun and a little sporty thing for flinging around backroads at the weekend. I’d feel very sad if autonomous driving emissions regulations destroyed recreational driving.

    • Yes, others drive for pleasure. I still drive a standard, although they’re getting harder to come by with a clutch. Still find it useful in unplowed snowy parking lots (Canada eh!). I drive a Subaru Impreza and had them put the stabilizer bars from a WRX in the back to keep it from wallowing. Corners are much more fun now.

    • Everyone’s playing video games, grandpa!

      (insert winking smilies as needed)

      Kind of for reals, though – video game are making a lot of cultural changes. I’m sure some of the “unhappy millennials with few job prospects are laying around playing games” is a bit over blown, but- man, games have really been perfecting the “do a little work, get a great big reward, and btw if you fail that’s probably our fault” for casual players (counterpoint: there are whole genres of often squad-based competitive gaming online where such cuddliness and self-affirmation is replaced by being called fag by a 12 year old as he kills you again and again)

      But man, these games are so visually and interactively rich… well, actually not interactively rich, most have a very limited set of “verbs”, but the animation, the sense of viscerally being somewhere, is tremendous. Even a 10 year old game like GTA IV; the amount of being in a world involved in that would have made a kid in the 80s lose his or her mind.

      • Whole different topic, but who you calling GRANDPA! Oh yeah, I am, twice over. But I still enjoy driving and I do play video games, albeit single player RPGs and not pure shooters.

        • “But I still enjoy driving…” Slowly I presume 😬

          • Let’s put it this way, I’ve never been honked at or tailgated for driving too slow. Except maybe in Montreal on the Metropolitan. And anyone who knows Montreal will know what I mean. You could be driving twice the speed limit and someone would want to go faster.

          • I was joking Bob. We do perceive all Americans to drive slowly compared to the UK where we drive like lunatics. Not sure about Canadians speedy driving to be honest. Will go there one day.

          • Oh I know you were joking. Sometimes it’s fun to play it straight and see the reaction.

            If the U.S. is anything like Canada, how fast and how well drivers drive depends where you are. The area I live is roughly 50-50. 50% drive faster than the speed limit and 50 at or below. In Montreal, it’s more like 80-20. I’m reminded of a joke about Los Angeles where if you drive at the speed limit, they use you as a ramp.

            Granted the last time I was in the U.K. was 2003, but it didn’t strike me that you drive like lunatics. I did find that a much greater percentage of people knew how to drive and knew exactly the rules of the road. And expected everyone to as well.

            Now Paris, on the other hand. I was there in 1969. Driving down narrow side roads at 50kph wasn’t my idea of normal driving. And no, I wasn’t the one driving.

        • Sorry. We shouldn’t gang up on Bob😁

      • random thought, I’ve started wondering if the solution to the Fermi Paradox is that alien civilizations just start playing VR games and gave up on real life…

  5. I just got a new car, and I’ve been taking the long way to everywhere just because I enjoy driving it and I’m on holiday at the mo. The British drive great, here in Spain they could save money and leave out the indicator, since most people don’t bother with it. I remember when I was teaching back in NZ one of my students told me, “My dad has been driving for years, he’s so experienced he doesn’t have to use the indicator anymore!” 😌😂😜

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