Speculative writing and illustrations can be great tools for exploring how new technology might look like and operate in the real world. By applying data, research, observation, design and informed thinking, we can anticipate some of the unintended consequences of emerging technology.
If you’re like me, you’ve had idealised visions of a simpler world thanks to autonomous vehicles. Imagine a car that you don’t even own turning up and driving you peacefully home. You don’t have to worry about awkward banter with the driver or your safety and security. Ultimately, the advances in technology allow you to get home quicker, conveniently and more comfortably. I’m sure some of this might become true in the future, but several realities are forgotten in this scenario.
I want to focus on autonomous vehicles and the impact on rideshare drivers. Rideshare and taxi drivers have limited barriers to employment, beyond meeting compliance requirements. The flexible hours also make these jobs accessible for those with non-traditional work hours or those with limited English or diverse backgrounds. According to the SMH, as of May 2018, Australia had 82,000 Uber drivers and there were 104,641 accredited bus, taxi or hire car drivers within Australia. Another key factor with using these rideshare apps is that we’re currently behaviourally training society for driverless experiences. Australia’s 3.8 million regular Uber Riders have been trained to identify pickup locations and drop-off locations, navigate and track vehicles and manage their support all through the app. This means there’s a proven, tested and well-scaled mechanism for deploying driverless vehicles. This single layer of automation has replaced taxi dispatch staff over the last 50 years.
In this article, I’m going to walk through some scenarios that might articulate the unintended consequences of this new technology, but I will also address some unforeseen opportunities that arise from each. These examples are broken into a scenario, the reasoning behind the scenario and a resulting opportunity to articulate each aspect in more detail.
Let’s set a consistent scene for the below scenarios:
You’re at a restaurant and you’ve finished your dinner. You use your…