What's boiling up in technology - the WEF vision - V. Autonomous Vehicles

The Tesla Model 3, announced in March 2016, as the first self driving car, will become available end of 2017 and will improve its self driving capability over time. Credit: Tesla

Full autonomous vehicles are still in the future, although they keep making headlines (most recently for the first fatal accident). One can reasonably expect fully autonomous vehicle to become everyday reality (hence to disappear form the headlines) later in the next decade and change our view -and habit- of transportation in ten to fifteen years time. 

>>> What is really interesting to me is the transformation from today's vehicle fleet to the second half of this century when we can assume that "all" vehicles will be autonomous (not the bikes, though Google tried to pull our legs on April 1st, 2016, watch the clip...).

The transformation is already on the way. We are starting to see adds-on that take over some part of the driving, like the more and more ubiquitous cruise control. Self parking is now available on a few models, top of the line cars provide "lane" control, automatic driving on highway is just a few years away and trucks platoons are a real possibility.

Evolution is likely to be continuous, incremental and in a way so slow that we will not notice it. 

Interestingly Tesla have announced Model 3 hinting that it will be the first mass market self driving car (at an affordable price).  Even more interesting it also hinted that the self driving features will be "upgraded" during the car life cycle: as new software will become available providing more self driving features it will be downloaded on the car.  We might be seeing our car taking over from us, day by day.

I don't think that 2016 is the year we will remember for a significant impact of self driving car technologies, surely not for an economic impact. So in this sense I disagree with WEF assessment. Most probably, we won't remember any specific year as being the one where self driving cars technology made a significant, as we don't remember any specific year when we can say that the PC made a significant impact, rather a period of transition (the 80ies for the PC, the 90ies for cell phones).

Then, of course, if we really need to place a date, March 2016 might be the one, with the unveiling of Tesla Model 3 (that won't be available, though, for 2 more years). For the record: the first recognised PC appeared in 1971 (the Kenback-1) and in 1982 the PC made the cover of the Times as "Man of the Year". Actual disruption happened in the late 80ies.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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