By Holland Cooke
LAS VEGAS — In his opening keynote, Consumer Technology Association President/CEO Gary Shapiro told us that:
- In 1960, one third of Americans lived in cities.
- Today half do.
- In 2050, two-thirds will.
He introduced Ford Motor Company CEO Jim Hackett, who reckons that “roads that were built for cars replace streets that were built for living.” Hackett’s mission is “a total redesign of the surface transportation system.” In his view, “these already stressed systems are collapsing.” And “the living street” depicted in his multimedia presentation foretells gentrified urban space that’s a throwback to more convivial times. A key component in this transformation will be autonomous vehicles.
Soon, but not yet.
BMW, Ford, GM, Nissan, VW and Volvo say their driverless cars will be on the road in three years. Tesla’s even sooner. But you won’t be able to buy one until around 2025; and it won’t be cheap.
The first autonomous vehicles we see will be taxis, operated by Uber and Lyft. And this technology will be huge for the trucking industry; which will “platoon,” with a driver at-the-wheel in the lead, followed by unmanned companion trucks.
If you’re driving a new car, you can already take your hands off the wheel when you parallel park. Sensors guide that process, and – in the future – can make robo-driving safer as cars talk to each other, feeding-and-reading the cloud. There’s already a buzzword! “V2V,” meaning vehicle-to-vehicle data.
Here’s another buzzword! “hyperlanes:” proposed lanes in which intelligent cars travel in dense packs at speeds north of 100mph; a much less-expensive system than building high-speed rail.
All of this has been evolving for years. Your car has cruise control, and probably GPS. Connect them and you’ve got auto-pilot. John Deere has been selling auto-steering tractors for 15 years.
Here, this week? Traffic is SUCH a tangle that the Las Vegas Monorail is still the best ride around the strip.
Holland Cooke is a media consultant working at the intersection of Talk Radio and the Internet. Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke