It’s Sunday, late afternoon, around 4:45PM. I’m enjoying one of the highlights of our summer, an early bird dinner at a local hotel with a live jazz band. My wife and I are the youngest people there by about 20 years, with two notable exceptions… our 3 and 4 year old kids. They’ve been properly napped and are behaving so well that several people will later come up and compliment us all. (If they only knew!)
I pause to reflect… How much are they paying this 5-piece band? Is the restaurant making its money back on this crowd of around 20 tables?
Finally… “I MUST teach my kids how to play the steel drum.”
(Side Note: I know that’s not a normal segue from a jazz band, but I’ve always been partial to how the steel drum reminds me of vacation.)
I remember when parents would worry if their children showed too much interest in guitar for their career. The common refrain was, “You need to focus on something that is going to pay the bills.”
How did I come to a place where I’m thinking about just the opposite when it comes to something like music?
The World Has Turned
The world is changing very fast and it will continue to do so. I have been thinking about a couple of those big changes lately.
Retail Stores are Being Hit Hard
Hours before the jazz brunch I read that Benny’s will close all 31 stores by the end of the year. You’ve probably never heard of Benny’s because it operates in the freckle of the Unites States called Rhode Island. After 93 years in business, the owners decided to retire. However, in their very short statement they emphasized:
“In a short period of time, the retail landscape has changed dramatically – especially for ‘brick and mortar’ businesses. The decision to retire was strongly influenced by this changing face of retailing.”
This was before Toys R Us announced its bankruptcy filing a few days ago. It was also after a string of other retailers closing stores. There are so many that Clark Howard keeps a running list of store closings. This isn’t exactly groundbreaking news.
What’s also not news is that Amazon and online commerce is the changing face of retailing that Benny’s owners were referring to. Earlier this week, I read Best Buy’s Secrets for Thriving in the Amazon Age (NYT’s paywall). A retailer has to have secrets (one of which is to “get lucky”) to survive in this Amazon Age.
When thousands of retail stores are closed every year jobs are lost. Jobs may be created in other places (such as Amazon warehouses and delivery services), but one has to wonder if enough jobs are being created.
Self Driving Cars will Change Everything
A few months back, I read an incredible article in Quartz about the small US towns that will be crushed by the trucking revolution. Essentially truck drivers are almost the entire economy of many small towns across the United States. In the near future, self-driving trucks will mean that truckers won’t stop at the dinners, gas station marks, hotels, etc. They will become the next Radiator Sprints before Lightning McQueen came to town.
Self-driving trucks are just the tip of the iceberg. Self-driving car fleets (such as the ones I’ve described here), will mean that few people will buy cars, which means car makers won’t make as money. Cars will last longer as electric cars can be almost maintenance free.
It might not be a good idea to work in the auto industry. It might not be a good idea to become a mechanic. It might not be a good idea to be a driver of any kind. It might not be a good idea to be in auto insurance sales. I’m not even touching half of the industries covered in CNBC’s list of 10 disrupted industries.
Finally, many (or all) of those delivery jobs created by Amazon and online commerce may disappear due to self-driving delivery cars, drones, and even self-driving STORES.
On the bright side, nearly everyone should be able to save a lot of money as transportation is one of the biggest expenses in the United States (#2 after housing).
So Where Are the Jobs?
I’ve only touched on a couple of the big things coming down the pike (or already here). The easy answer to the jobs question is that there will be more technology jobs created. That may be true, but I’m not entirely convinced. Software that powers self-driving cars will mature in the same way that word processing software matured.* Once it does all the core functions really well, there’s not much else to improve on. There’s no need to employ thousands of software engineers when everything just works.
I’m sure there will always be new things for the technology people to work on. However, a vast majority of those jobs seem to be centered in a relatively small area in northern California called Silicon Valley. Maybe that will change in the future, but maybe it won’t. If all the new jobs are there, it’s not going to help 99.9% of the rest of the country find employment.
Years ago, I started this blog because I wanted to explore how to become financially free. The driving force behind that was the large push to outsource software engineering jobs to foreign countries where workers could work for a fraction of the pay. It was that same year (2006) that my wife’s pharmacy convention keynote speaker focused on how pharmacists will be outsourced. I haven’t followed the outsourcing of either industry in a long time, but it seems like those predictions haven’t come to pass… yet. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future.
This brings us back full circle to the steel drum. While the restaurant could have cued up a few MP3s, it wouldn’t have been the same experience. That band, like many in town, have paying gigs at least a few days a week. It wouldn’t be enough to live off of, but I bet it pays well for a hobby… and they seemed to be enjoying themselves.
One more thing occurred to me. In the future, many of the fundamentals of financial independence will become even more important. If you’ve accrued some dividend income, have a side steel drum gig, and know how to live frugally, you’ll be a few steps ahead of the pack.
I didn’t intend for this article to be all doom and gloom. We enjoy getting things delivered to our door for very reasonable prices. I’m looking forward to being productive while traveling and letting a robot chauffeur my kids to soccer practice, especially when it comes cheaply.
A different world isn’t necessarily a bad one. We need more steel drummers, don’t you think? Let me know in the comments.
* True story: I still use Microsoft Office 2001 as my office suite.
** You score major points if you recognize the title of this article as a Weezer song off their first album. While the lyrics are obviously about something completely different, I admit that I’m a little haunted with how some of them apply:
“And in your place an empty space
has filled the void behind my face
You remain, turned away
Turning further every day
Do you believe what I sing now?”
Yeah, yeah, yeah…right. Just like all the articles from the sixties that were predicting flying cars were right around the corner. OMG, did I just admit I was alive in the sixties? Well so much for anyone even finishing reading this comment.
Lazy Man says
Good thing you made that comment short Steveark. I was able to finish it.
I’m not sure how advanced the tests of flying cars got in the 1960s, but self-driving cars already exist. Google’s have driven 3 million miles on public roads since 2010 (source). There are times when people predict things that are so far away from reality, it doesn’t make much sense (such as flying cars), but the technology is already here. I think the largest obstacle will be political and passing the laws to make self-driving cars legal.
I was a big Weezer fan back in the day, great song! Had to queue it up in my music player while I work this morning.. :)
I live in Minnesota where Best Buy is headquartered, and my day job’s office is just down the road from the huge Best Buy headquarters. I see their employees out to lunch whenever i eat out near their campus.
They built their beautiful Best Buy office campus knocking down an entire block of old car dealerships, homes and retail stores to build it a decade and a half ago or so. At the time they were at their pinnacle, and the Amazon’s of the world had yet to completely take over.
It was sad to watch as they began a steady decline, and I know more than a few people who lost jobs at their headquarters in a few rounds of layoffs that they had. I’m glad they’ve been able to turn it around to some degree to avoid the fate so many other companies have had in the past few years – by being a bit more flexible on price (which for a while was their big undoing), having better inventory systems between online and bricks & mortar, having better trained associates, etc. Very interesting read at the link you dropped.
Times are a changin.. My day job is in the auto industry, and we’ve had to make changes as well – some of them not so pleasant – including layoffs and pivots to become more agile and flexible. The dollars that once flowed like wine are starting to dry up. It’s become more important than ever in my view to be flexible as well, having side income available in order to protect yourself against the changes that are bound to happen.
Lazy Man says
Thanks Peter, I appreciate the view from being near Best Buy and the auto industry.
I was upset when they closed the Best Buy near me. It was the last of the big box electronic stores around a 30 minute drive (which is a lot when you can drive through the entire state of Rhode Island in 45 minutes) from me. Now our options are mostly limited to a very small Wal-Mart. I was a little happier when an Aldi came there, which saves our family a good chunk of money. It’s amazing how few employees work at that grocery store. I think they have two people (one person at the register and one person stocking) most of the time.
There is only one thing constant in life, change. Well.that and maybe taxes. In either case I imagine new types of jobs we’ve never imagined will pop up. After all most of the most common jobs from the twenties no longer exist and we’re all still employed. Adaptability is key.
Interesting post! I have a completely different view of electric and autonomous vehicles, and I believe you may be off base about both.
Electric cars, in my opinion, will never take over because of two key flaws. First, they still require a ton of fossil fuels to be produced, which proves they aren’t as efficient as people suggest. And speaking of efficiency, their range is terrible in comparison to an internal combustion car and you have to wait around 40 minutes to get a full recharge (which isn’t terribly practical for long distance travel). Second, they are still not economically relevant. As they continue to be produced, Tesla in particular, still can’t generate a profit. If Tesla, Fisker, and whatever BMW is doing were the only makers of cars, then the whole automobile economy would collapse. It’s just not practical to try and run an industry with a product that can’t turn a profit.
Currently (all pun intended), there are several countries making a push to ban internal combustion cars, and I believe this will also fail for the reasons I previously listed. The amount of revenue they generate from the petrol and diesel fueled gases is gigantic, and they would be incredibly stupid to try and take that hit for electric cars.
On a side note, have you seen the price of palladium now? It is basically the same price as platinum, which makes catalytic converters quite expensive to produce.
Autonomous cars also have huge issues as well. First, as you mentioned in your article, removing the driver essentially removes the market. There will be a push to make cars as comfortable and lame as possible, because people will not want their autonomous cars acting like Richard Petty. This means the competitive edge and creative desire to make cars bigger, better, faster, will all go away.
Second, there will be an inherent risk with giving all of the control to a car’s programmer. In an extreme example, a programmer could make the cars racist and not allow certain people to go to certain places by rejecting their requests. For example, lets say a black person wanted to go to Beverly Hills. An autonomous car could be programmed to prevent black people from being able to go to Beverly Hills when it is purchased. This is a silly example, but you see where I am going with this.
It would be very easy for everyone’s lives to be completely controlled by an outside influence that controls the programming of their vehicles. Let’s say the government wants everyone to stop going within a hundred miles of Washington DC, then every car will simply be programmed to pretend that part of the United States no longer exists and GPS will be completely altered. If we are to believe that autonomous cars could become the only source of transportation, then we can believe that we are giving up our own control of a large portion of our lives.
Just my two cents!
Lazy Man says
Love it Geoff.
I think electric cars could require fewer fossil fuels in the future. And if the fewer moving parts makes it cost less to maintain, the total cost of ownership will be less – especially if ongoing fuel costs come from solar.
The idea of driverless cars is that companies like Uber/Lyft would have whole fleets in cities. Cars that aren’t charged well enough wouldn’t be dispatched by the computer. No one really waits 40 minutes because they’d just transfer to another car in the fleet. This might be a problem to travel 800 miles, but maybe they’ll have bigger battery vehicles with multiple batteries for thosee kinds of rare trips.
The cars would be profitable, because they aren’t being to consumers at consumer prices. The average car sits idle around 97-98% of the time while these cars are earning the Uber/Lyft money 80% of the time (allowing for off-peak idle times and charging times). Again the cost savings of using electricity (produced by solar) for all this driving is significant.
Finally, by almost all accounts driverless cars are safer (which I’ll get to in a bit) and thus could be made cheaper. With the costs of accidents almost eliminated the car is more affordable.
I don’t think comfortable cars are lame. I think they’ll just look to make them more comfortable and more amenities… perhaps like first class and economy seating on airplanes.
I think the programmers of cars would have their code audited like banks do. You don’t run into problem of racist ATMs or anything like that. If one programmer went rogue and slipped some racist code in, I think it would be ferreted out pretty quickly. I’d be more afraid of government mandatory curfews or the DC example you stated. While some will be concerned about the “what ifs” of these things, I think most people will enjoy the convenience. There are a lot of privacy issues with using a cell phone or toll-booth transponders and most people are willing to trade that for convenience.
The cost and space required to do solar instead of fossil fuels is not practical. I think this is more of an over-hyped pipe dream that has been perpetuated by the media. If you skim through this renewable energy PDF, you will see how unrealistic it is to make this dream a reality.
Also, the amount of damage created by mining these rare metals is quite large because of the amount of materials they have to dig up at the same time and then put back with toxic chemicals. This article said around 99.8% of what is mined when searching for rare metals is useless junk that gets put back after being dug up.
I don’t see a reason for Uber/Lyft to exist if there are autonomous cars. If we made the transition to autonomous cars, then that industry, in my opinion, would be defunct because nobody would need to pay for a company’s car when their car does the exact same thing.
As far as long-distance travel goes, that will be a thing of the past. The only way we will travel long distances is, if there are literally thousands of outposts across the country designed to switch cars upon arrival, and that sounds both costly and inefficient. Most people won’t go through the hassle. Also, trucking and bus industries would also go extinct due to the inefficiency. In fact, in that regard, I’m not sure how businesses manufacturing and supplying goods would work, because a large portion of their markets would be knocked out. They would have to develop MANY more factories in local areas to deliver goods, which would make the goods skyrocket. Imagine if you didn’t have a gas powered truck to deliver a bed you purchased from across the country. The cost to ship the bed would be insane!
I’m not sure I follow your logic in the paragraph about cars sitting idle. Again, I don’t believe Uber/Lyft would exist if we had autonomous cars. That need would disappear.
I’m not sure that autonomous cars are safer. A good example is a Jeremy Bentham (utilitarian) example. An autonomous car won’t have a conscience to choose the greatest good in a lose/lose situation, and those situations will always exist as long as human beings exist. An example is, a person decides to walk into an intersection on their cell phone and is not paying attention to the light. An autonomous car recognizes that it is going to hit and slams on the brakes to stop from hitting the person, but in the process, locks up and spins out hitting 3 other cars causing multiple fatal injuries. The autonomous car didn’t recognize a potential 3rd outcome to veer in a different direction and possibly only injure the driver and save many lives, because it can’t be programmed to do this. Again, this is an extreme example, but it will happen.
The other fear is if the car malfunctions and is unable to stop, or worse, accelerates at an incorrect time. This will undoubtedly happen as well, and as far as maintenance goes, if people are responsible for that, then there will always be critical issues involving program updating, and general car maintenance that may be overlooked due to a detachment from the actual experience of being one with the car. What I mean by this is, how often does someone take their car in for maintenance because they were a passenger and noticed something wrong versus being the driver and feeling or noticing an issue? Being removed from the actual experience of the car operating can be a significant issue.
I take back the term “lame”, it wasn’t meant to be used in that way. What I meant was the opposite of dynamic and not “that’s lame dude” or something like that.
I don’t believe the comparison of having our ability to travel being compromised with the infiltration of the government through cell phones is fair. Tracking someone is far different from completely invading their life and forcing them to be limited to a certain proximity. We have never experienced anything like the potential damage that could occur if someone decided to take over our means of transportation.
Lazy Man says
I checked out that renewable energy PDF, but I admit I didn’t have time to read all 42 pages. It seems to have steered off the point in suggesting that the goal was 100% removal of fossil fuels for the entire world (or at least the US) and all their energy use. I’m thinking of a subset of energy use (ground transportation) and not 100% of that needs to be from renewable energy. The Telsa article that you sent said that if most of the energy comes from green sources, it is actually fairly green.
So in my vision, I have solar power (which is true in real life). Uber/Lyft pays me some amount for the parking space and access to my solar power. Whenever anyone in my neighborhood needs a car, it drives by itself to that person. We’ll obviously need more houses than mine and more cars than just the single one. However, we won’t need 2 for every family. Eventually families might not own cars at all if the fleet manages demands well. While making a Tesla might not be all that green, we’ll get better at it, and we’ll probably eliminate 70% of the cars that ARE being made that sit idle some 96% of the time.
This 96% number comes from Morgan Stanley (https://qz.com/264781/the-latest-attack-on-americas-car-culture-comes-from-wall-street/). If you think about it most people’s cars go to work and home and stay there. That’s really inefficient. Morgan Stanley estimates that it’s trillions or dollars of wasted value in that article.
Uber has already said that their future is in autonomous cars. They were testing it a year ago in Pittsburgh. Uber’s overhead/biggest expense according to the article is paying the people. So I think the opposite happens, why would I pay high costs to own a car when I can get one in a minute or two for a few dollars? I think Uber could keep these costs low, because they are paying one-time for the car and very little for the energy.
I don’t think you need to have thousands of outposts across the country if you can get 200 miles on a charge. However, to play devil’s advocate, we already have those outposts… we call them gas stations. The outposts could be designed to simply swap a dead battery with a new battery, which could be designed to be less of a hassle than waiting for gas to be poured into a car. The Tesla Model S gets 320 miles per charge. How much further would you want to go before a stop to swap out a battery?
It’s worth noting that the cost of batteries are rapidly dropping (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric-vehicle_battery#Battery_cost) going from $750/kWh in 2010 to $145/kWh in 2016. What could it be in 10 years?
Trucking industries would love driverless cars. They are already working on it. They don’t want to pay truck drivers, when a computer works for free. I don’t see why they would be extinct. Even if the argument was about driving long distances, trucks can have many batteries. Still, I think if you can swap out the batteries at gas stations, it solves the problem. I envision this to be a lot like a Blue Rhino propane gas system. You drop off the empty one and get a new one.
Google’s already been testing autonomous cars since 2010 and in the 3 million miles, I don’t think they’ve been found at fault in any of the very accidents they were involved in. I don’t know how many people can say the same and we should be able to assume that cars will learn from mistakes. In the lose/lose scenario that you mentioned, the automonous car would communicate to the other cars to stop as well, though they would probably see the same danger. I also don’t see why the computer couldn’t calculate road conditions to know about the spin out. I think it would do it better than a human driver. And I’m not sure the human driver decides to injure himself in that split second either.
I think those lose/lose situations are rare. What about the person who is driving while on their cell phone that directly creates the accident. Or what about drunk driving. The perfect is the enemy of amazing improvement.
While there is a fear that the car malfunctions, again, we have 3 million miles from Google where that hasn’t happened. We will have a lot more miles too with humans behind the wheel to know what this risk is. So far I think it’s zero, so when the first one happens we’ll know if it’s 1 in 5, 10, or 100 million miles. Well-cited Wikipedia shows that there were 5,419,000 crashes in 2010 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motor_vehicle_deaths_in_U.S._by_year. I think automonous cars will get far fewer crashes from the data we have. It’s hard to make humans perform better, but easier to program computers.
There may be a maintenance issue as well, but I would argue again that cars are better than people. My Acura MDX can tell me the PSI in every tire. I couldn’t do that. I’m sure they could have sensors for break pads and all sorts of things.
I don’t see how anyone would be limited to a certain proximity with electric cars, so I don’t see how people would be forced into that.
Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I try to not do this on the weekends, the wife doesn’t like it.
The main point I was focusing on in the PDF was the part where they said, “The financial costs of building the 100% renewable energy world are enormous, but the land area
needed to accommodate such diffuse sources of energy supply is just as daunting.
Accommodating the 46,480 solar PV plants envisioned for the U.S. in the WWS vision would take up
650,720 square miles, almost 20% of the lower 48 states. This is close in size to the combined areas of
Texas, California, Arizona, and Nevada.”
On top of it being an outrageously expensive procedure, it would be WAY more difficult than a “Trump wall” or any other grandiose public project. I would argue, involving every state, with completely different interpretations of laws and taxes, that this project would never see the light of day.
In the other article, I was looking to focus on the fact that the mining of these rare metals is incredibly toxic and inefficient. Even if it is better than the current situation with fossil fuels, it is far from ideal. I just didn’t want there to be a romanticized idea about how green these cars are going to be.
You bring up an interesting point about the idle time and the inefficiency of vehicles. I’ve never thought of a way to make this more efficient, but I do know that GM and other big manufacturers have continued to make this market as inefficient as possible. GM continues to oversupply demand, and currently has blown through the entire bailout with over 1 million cars sitting on lots as we speak. I’m not sure that electric cars will be able to change this oversupply problem, it seems systemic with the industry.
I still don’t agree with Uber/Lyft being the answer. Call me dark, but any corporation(s) having that kind of monopoly over something as important as transportation will be an incredible setback for people as a whole. Not only does it not sound feasible that they could create an army of vehicles ready to go at a moment’s notice, at any time, to take you where you need to go, but it also doesn’t sound practical if there was a mass exodus (take Florida for example), where they could amass enough vehicles to get people out. Maybe I don’t think big enough, but it sounds like an impossible task.
Uber, as far as I know, isn’t profitable, and I don’t know if they would be without the drivers. That is something in which I would have to do more research. From what I understand, Uber has a tremendous amount of issues with their structure and their people running the show have been dropping like flies due to personal scandals and other nonsense. I’m not sure if Uber even has a future at this point.
I love the comparison with gas stations. I also love the idea of a battery swap. The amount of money that would have to be invested in this process, I would guess, would also be in the trillions (to make the stations and make the batteries), which is something I don’t believe anyone could afford. This, again, sounds more like a dream at this point. I also don’t know if the batteries would be a worthwhile investment compared to their life-span. At this point, I believe the batteries have not been proven to be a more economical feature in comparison to gas. The cost to replace a battery, assuming it lasts a full life-span, last I checked, was about the same as filling a car with gas for the same amount of time. I’m sure that will change in the future when the processes get better. Again, this is coming off the top of my head.
Autonomous trucks driving across the country to deliver packages sounds way out there as well. Again, the programming scares me, and the idea that lives would be completely dependent on these trucks being able to reach certain areas of the country is down-right scary. The program would have to be rolled out flawlessly and have the ability to reach everywhere in the continental US. I don’t see how that is possible, especially with weather, areas that don’t even have cell reception yet, a massive amount of stations for battery swaps, etc. This sounds like a high-risk endeavor and also an extremely costly one. As a country that is outrageously broke, this idea doesn’t sound like it could come true for another couple of centuries.
I do believe, in your description, that programmed cars will reduce accidents, but I also believe, there will be many different issues that will arise due to outside human influence. I haven’t followed any of the Google car’s missions, but based on what you have said, it does sound like a very positive experiment. I still think people will be too detached to notice when the car is having issues, and assuming that the car doesn’t have perfect censors every time, there will be problems in the future. How big those problems will be, is impossible to say, but it doesn’t sound like it will be worse than the current situation.
On a side note, I am personally biased toward enjoying my privilege of driving. It isn’t something I would ever want to give up, and I believe it is something that many people also wouldn’t want to give up. The idea that people would be forced to give up their rights to drive is something that sounds problematic.
Great points, and I definitely appreciate your perspective on the subject.
Some main points of disagreement would be. The cost and efficiency of switching over to electric with alternative energy (solar). I don’t think it is feasible, and will certainly super bankrupt the country (I use the term super, because we are already there).
I don’t believe a lot of people want to give up their right and privilege to drive. That may change in the future, but I personally love driving (and I’m in California with the worst drivers and the worst traffic).
I don’t think it is feasible to have these stations and the battery swaps. This, much like the first point, would be an insane cost, and could have many problems (battery supply, mass exodus).
Finally, I don’t think it would be possible or responsible to have a company that controls all of our driving transportation needs. We already see problems with current monopolies and their ability to take advantage of consumers (banks, cable networks/internet providers, YouTube/Google, etc.). There could be some significant issues with pricing, ability to travel certain places, and efficiency, if only one or two groups control everything.
Just my two cents.
Lazy Man says
As for the 650,720 sq. miles for 100% renewable energy world (I’m presuming all Earth), we have to understand that’s completely different thing that what I’m proposing here. I’m write about a fraction of the world (US), and a fraction of the energy usage (ground transportation), and only a fraction of the ground transportation (the fleet of autonomous cars). So maybe we only need 1/100th of the 650,720 miles or 65,000 miles. (I’m just guessing because I don’t have the numbers.)
This is happening while solar panels are getting more efficient every year and the costs of solar power is dropping quite a bit every 6 months (last graph here). The gains of efficiency might mean that 30,000 miles can do the job. That’s still quite a lot of space.
The other thing is that the project isn’t grandiose, because individuals and businesses are already doing it. It doesn’t need to be a Trump Wall, Hoover Dam, or anything contiguous. The project can be distributed on the roofs of all the homes and business. There’s no difficulty of laws and taxes because there are many homes in every state that have solar power despite whatever the laws and taxes are.
I’m going to romanticize how green the cars are going to be anyway. As this article explains an electric vehicle can have a life of 500,000 miles with reduced maintenance costs, which is about three times longer than the gas cars… and that’s not accounting for the fuel efficiency of running off of solar. That article overall is a good read and covers research that shows the cost per mile of an Uber/Lyft fleet of autonomous electric vehicle will be 16 cents in 2021 and get as low as 10 cents. I don’t believe the research group that we’ll get there by so quickly, but it does seem inevititible.
I would think that big car manufacturers will do what they can to make the market as inefficient as possible. However, a lot of them are working autonomous vehicles as well. Here are 12 companies working on it. I’m not sure I want to against Google, Apple, BMW, Volvo, Ford, Audi, Intel. These are household names from the car and technology industry, so I could see them pulling it off.
I can see the dark side about a corporation having a monopoly over transportation. I’m not sure any one company is going to win. It could be like iOS and Android. The duopoly essentially owns mobile software and communication and they’ll already be going into cars. Google has a near monopoly in search, maps, and online advertising. Facebook has pretty close to a social network monopoly… and there’s talk that it was important enough to change our Presidential election. Even if you don’t believe that The New York Times makes a great analogy to it being Frankenstein – https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/21/technology/facebook-frankenstein-sandberg-ads.html?mcubz=3. Amazon dwarfs everyone else when it comes to online sales.
I would think the Department of Transportation would require that the code is audited for the safety of the country.
I don’t have a solution for getting a lot of people out of a huge area. It seems like an edge case. Maybe huge autonomous buses will take over.
Uber isn’t profitable. There’s a good article on Gizmodo about why they are losing so much money – https://gizmodo.com/why-uber-is-losing-money-faster-than-any-tech-company-e-1785736918. They paid out 2.7 billion dollars to drivers in the first half of 2015. The article later says, “Eventually, Uber will get rid of the drivers and turn a huge profit.”
You are correct that Uber has a bunch of scandals and personal problems. I’m not sure they will be the winner in the race. It could be Lyft. It might be Google or Apple who are developing the self-driving software. If you have self-driving car software, putting together a fleet of them is trivially easy. I’m convinced Google/Apple could code up something to match ride hailers to available cars.
As for the costs of electric stations, we’re already making the batteries in the electric cars. Maybe if a station keeps 20 batteries at each station, they’ll be fine because they are swapping them out. If you partner with the station owner, the costs come down quite a bit. It’s not like McDonalds bought all the stores across the US at once. Maybe it’s a franchise model with the station?
A lot of this stuff has to be taken in the context of the article I wrote too. I was looking at my and 3 and 4 year old. So we are talking 20 years when they enter the workforce. Does all this seem so bizarre by 2037?
There’s a lot of progress in automated trucks. It’s evolving slowly and I’m not sure they are electric yet. That article makes it sound like companies are working on it and have good reason to as it will save them billions upon billions.
However big the problems are with cars having issues, it would seem that they’d be cut down drastically and solved with software updates. I admit there might be bugs and that’s troublesome. However, if you look at iOS or Android 1.0 to what we have today, there’s no question the software has gotten much better in just 7 years.
Maybe some people will never know the joy of driving. I can imagine a scenario when a child born today won’t need to learn to drive and may choose not to. I think it would be awesome to fly a plane. I don’t miss not being to fly one. Another thought is that maybe the software will allow you switch to “manual with assistance mode.” That would mean that you are driving, but if necessarily the car may take over. You might enjoy this even more with most the traffic congestion a thing of the past.
Any change will cause unforeseen (or at least unintended) consequences. Currently the state of the electric vehicle is such that adopting it is a step backward. 40+ minutes of charging to travel 150-200 miles isn’t practical. And impractical technology that doesn’t make life easier isn’t adopted. Building the cars isn’t the only fossil fuel involved in their use. The electricity has to come from somewhere. And right now that “somewhere” is fossil fuels.
As for China and other countries moving to make all cars electric, a good point was made by someone I was discussing this with recently. Restriction of travel. When it’s not practical to travel long distances people won’t do so. Another way to control our behavior.
And related to Geoff’s point about changing the software to make it impossible to travel certain places, we saw a related function during Hurricane Irma. The less expensive models of Tesla are programmed to not allow the full charge of the battery to be used unless a couple thousand dollar upcharge is paid. They remotely reprogrammed those models to allow an extra 30 miles of travel during the hurricane evacuations. With hacking seemingly so easy (see Equifax, et al.) what would stop a bad actor from using that same functionality to make the batteries operate for less time, or not at all?
Food for thought.
Lazy Man says
I agree that currently the electric vehicle may be a step backwards, but with fleets of driver-less cars they are more practical. No one has to waiting 40 minutes for a car to charge, because they’ll be another car ready to go. It’s just like how you don’t have to wait for Uber to gas up. The closest available one is on its way. While most of electricity today is coming from fossil fuels, solar power is increasing. By the time fleets of driver-less cars are ready to roll out, it’s possible that a significant portion comes from solar. So it might not be perfect, but it’s certainly a vast improvement, right?
I’m not sure there’s a push to restrict travel. We’ll all have Hyperloop options right ;-)? The cars may be able to be programmed to insert a new battery from a battery station in seconds. Since it’s all owned and controlled by the Uber/Lyft fleet they don’t care about whether the battery is new or old, just that it has the life to go another 200 miles. It could be quicker than fueling up at a gas station.
The hacking issue is a large one. Hackers can into the electric grid now (source: https://www.wired.com/story/hackers-gain-switch-flipping-access-to-us-power-systems/). It’s definitely something to be worried about. What if hackers hacked into air traffic control and created a problem there? There’s a lot of “what ifs” that really need to be considered, but we have these issues today. So we either have to solve them or just understand that they are a part of living in the world of technology, right?
Lazy Man says
Looks like the battery swapping technology that I was talking about is already in practice in some places – https://qz.com/1084282/the-future-of-transportation-may-be-about-sharing-batteries-not-vehicles/.
D. Redfeather says
Dude, where do you get your information on truckdrivers? Haven’t you heard? There’s a major shortage of CDL drivers in trucking to the tune of over 50,000+ jobs available. Plus, the miles driven to deliver those goods still requires fue and DEF, food, showers, etc. Self-driving trucks and personally owned vehicles are a long way off. They are only now doing test drives with prototypes. Production is many, many years away. As for tractor-trailers being self-driven, there will always be qualified professional drivers in the cab to take over when situations come up that a computer won’t be able to discern at a moment’s notice. Like accidents that require instant action, pumping fuel backing into a dock or other special places to uload thr cargo and parking, to name just a few. A driver cannot just rest in the sleeper while the wheels are rolling. Plus, every interstate, highway, road and street and even alleyways will need sensors to guide those trucks. That level of infrastructure will take decades to be installed and operating. There will always be a need for mechanics because even maintenance free vehicles require regular service to major repairs. Auto and commercial truck manufacturers will always need a level of human assemblers and inspectors to to insure the safety and integrity of the finished vehicle. Machines, especially machines of today are not as nearly as intuitive as humans.
Like the article – maybe be a little less lazy though and fix the many typos…it makes it annoying to read even when the point is valid.
Lazy Man says
Thanks. I don’t believe the blogging platform should be proofread. I realize I’m in the minority, but the idea is to quickly spread valid ideas. Time that I’m proofreading is time that I’m not creating or spreading ideas. I do understand your point though.