Monday, January 28, 2013

Someone to drive you home? That's worth alot!

In this Forbes article, the author makes some audacious claims:

...the driverless car has broad implications for society, for the economy and for individual businesses. Just in the U.S., the car puts up for grab some $2 trillion a year in revenue and even more market cap. It creates business opportunities that dwarf Google’s current search-based business and unleashes existential challenges to market leaders across numerous industries, including car makers, auto insurers, energy companies and others that share in car-related revenue.

As readers of this blog may have noticed, I like cars. Particularly German ones (even if one is owned by an American company. Driving is more than just reaching a destination, in my mind. It is about freedom, excitement, and more.

However, commuting is another story. One of my other loves, the bicycle, addresses this problem neatly. Still, as a SciFi fan, I find the thought of a self-driving car irresistible. An autonomous car, or robot car, is an autonomous vehicle capable of fulfilling transportation needs of a traditional car -- without a human to drive it. As an autonomous vehicle, such a car should be capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input. The goal is -- you choose the destination, but you are required to operate the vehicle.

Perhaps the elderly or other less-ably-bodied will be the initial focus of the robot car? One aspect I like about Google's approach: there is no centralized control, like in the next-generation air traffic control, where each aircraft "controls" the space around it, communicating directly with others in its vicinity. Safer, higher volume/higher density of traffic, and more direct routing (for quicker arrivals). Getting that on the beltway or at the airport would be welcome.

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