The development of new technologies for the transportation system and the progress made by social media applications are the two main contributors for a radical change of the private transport.
Among the companies, the race to offer driverless cars to the market is just started and Apple, Google, Tesla and Uber are some of main companies involved in this challenge.
The above companies need partners in automakers to progress further because they do not have skills for the production of these. For the first time since the creation of the automobile, people has to rethink the purpose and usage of this vehicle.
Indeed, most of the past transport developments were based on mechanic and environmental implementations (e.g. construction of railroads, electric lights implementation, and improvement of engines performance and vehicle’s comfort for the passengers) but it was not conceived to give free time to the driver, this means offering passengers additional time for reading books, watching video, catnap, writing etc.
Besides leisure, companies want also reduce the risk of accidents because the vehicle’s movement is coordinated with the ones around and because it can move also if the visual condition is not perfect (e.g. fog, night and rain).
Because the communication with other vehicles, the car can reduce the time travel and the search of an available parking spot. Additional drones can move loads around the country and decreasing the number of vehicles on the road.
Among the IT companies, Google is the one in better condition to provide in short time self-driving cars to the market because the company has mapping databases, artificial intelligence know-how, and its fleet of driverless cars.
This is also time to take decision for what vehicles develop and at moment there are two approaches:
The first approach, gradual implementation, it is supported by car developers (and by Tesla in particular) believes that driver-assisting technologies (advanced cruise control and functionalities like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class “traffic jam assist” – http://tinyurl.com/ncf8q7a for a complete view) should be added to existent vehicles and a pure driverless system should be reached only over time.
The second approach, ground-up (led by Google) believes that a complete new car needs to be produced because there are so many technology developments available that does not make sense use the same concept of vehicle. Indeed, new feature involve all the aspect of the car, for example breaks, ignition, steering wheels and tires.
At this point would be interesting understand if people would feel comfortable with this driverless system and is this technology is 100% reliable at this stage. When Google tested this technology, the company made sign a contract to the passengers and the contract stated clearly that people in the car must be alert while the driverless system was on because it that was an experiment and an early stage of implementation. If something goes wrong drivers must take the control of the vehicles (would you go on a pilot free airplane, for example?).
Apparently the idea that passengers can enjoy free time on board collide with the reality that someone has to be ready to take control of the vehicle and this grey area is simple unacceptable.
As for many new technology at early stage even if this exists does not mean that people is ready for that or satisfy his needs.
It is really hard to predict when this kind of vehicles will be ready for the consumers, even if some companies are really confident that in 5 years the first cars will be available in showrooms.
New transportation systems have created changes in the society and in particular in time perception. In United Kingdom for example, the railways (not the postal office) was the one that enforced clock uniformity across the country.
Another element which goes under pressure is the space (check my book Bittersweet social media for more detail) because distance can be effected by new technology. People can develop a different perception about the distance between two location based on the quantity of time spent to reach them or in what condition (more uncomfortable you are during the travel and longer the distance appears).
With these intelligent cars, passengers will benefit of additional free time and they will be engaged with new activities during the journey and considering also that the communication between cars reduces the journey, also the perception of distance and time can be effected and changed.