Twelve Concepts in Autonomous Mobility


Recently met with the advanced design team of a Japanese client to discuss how autonomous mobility could play out. I’ve talked publicly about a few of these ideas before — behavioural musings/predictions based on existing practices across markets as diverse as the US, China, Japan and India.

The elasticity of a vehicle: its preferred physical distance to its owner, place or other vehicle, ultimately measured in pick-up times, perceived and actual risk of the environment by the person and the vehicle.

The shy-distance by which your vehicle instinctively avoids, shies away from other vehicles on the road and stationary objects. For example the shy-distance in Shanghai today is very low, if a driver leaves a two inch gap another driver will take it. China is an interesting market not least because of the volume of cars, the quality of the (often newly built) infrastructure, but also because the majority of cars are bought by first-time buyers who are both proud of their new investment and learning how to drive. Assuming that an autonomous vehicle needs to compete with other human-driven vehicles for road space how would the vehicular shy distance differ from country to country? What are the personal, contextual, cultural factors that affect the shy distance: such as the kind of vehicle; the speed; whose inside? And how drivers will override their vehicles shy distance to gain a competitive edge on the road?

The practice of what we currently call parking will obviously change when your vehicle is able to park and drive itself, think of your vehicle autonomously cruising the neighbourhood to be washed, pick-up groceries and recharge its batteries whilst you’re off having lunch.

Juddering: the ripple of a dozen or more cars in a parking lot that react and finally settle to the arrival of a new vehicle by each trying to find a new optimal shy distance. Most prevalent near borders and places where there’s a high propensity to use (internationally) stolen vehicles.

Nanny mode: vehicles that are assigned to pick up young children from school, but end up trailing them at a discreet distance because the kids prefer to walk home alone.

Car surprise: when you come across your car somewhere where you didn’t expect it to be and witness your vehicle engaging in unexpected activities e.g. pickup up flowers at the mall: the equivalent of catching your parent or kid smoking or shoplifting.

Nookie mode: ensures you don’t meet your vehicle when you’re out and about until you are ready. This is named after the behaviour of couples who share location with one another to avoid each other on a big out when they may end up with new sexual partners for the night. If the purpose is to hook up the vehicle will increasingly be an option, autonomously driving to minimise discovery. Every car is a potential love-hotel room, all be it with wet wipes rather than great bathing facilities — I would expect them to be significantly impacted by the shorter end of the “short-stay” market, including highly transactional activities such as prostitution.

Jerky Driving: masturbating in the vehicle is a practical use case, but is not something that corporates are going to talk about any time soon. Males and females have a different propensity to masturbate, but (from conversations with a number of people who partake) the current car ergonomics for masturbation favour women.

A Highly Private Moment (HPM): the term used in corporations to describe highly private activities such as masturbation that take place in vehicles. Expect to see a variety of hacks to temporarily disable internal facing cam. As a side note, if you want to introduce discussions on taboo activities into a corporation, reduce it to a generic TLA that is open to wide interpretation. e.g. VPMC = Very Person Media Consumption.

Hedge-parking: where your vehicle overbooks a number physical parking spaces based on your preferences of timing, location, flexibility and willingness to pay, but is unable to offload the unused spaces on the open market when the time comes to make the choice.

Fine-rich: the compensation your vehicle receives from other vehicles where parking spaces that you’ve booked are not yet available because other vehicles have overstayed their allotted times.

Trailer trashing: where dodgy looking vehicles are assigned to trail an otherwise apparent owner either as a joke or to send a message e.g. a hearse sent by a debt collection agency to scare-up payment. You’ll also see this happen with more aggressive companies who send a vehicle around to their competitors to send a message, recruit their staff or to gather intelligence. Task Rabbit or San Da ha + autonomous mobility + intent. The most obvious market for this will be straight-up advertising.

Inspired by Today’s Office.