The Transportation Transformation
What if getting to work was as easy as walking out your front door? What if you could travel from LA to SF in 30 minutes? What if cars communicated with humans like humans communicate with customer service agents? What if I told you that that fastest way to move from Point A to B was by hopping on an untethered electric scooter lying lazily on the steaming sidewalk?
The future of transportation invites optimism. Today, we sit miserably in traffic jams, spend exorbitant amounts of money owning and maintaining vehicles, lose consciousness and empathy while driving, and pollute our planet with toxic chemicals. Tomorrow, perhaps we will sip tea in the sky, flying in small orbs that carry us through space to our final destination. Transportation is transforming.
Soon we will have driverless cars and trucks monitored and controlled by remote drivers operating connected wheels & brakes many miles from the road.
Motorcycle helmets with cameras will predict collisions before they occur, cabins will alert local authorities if a child is left in the back seat alone, and traffic lights will stay green when they sense an ambulance a few blocks away.
Transportation is a fundamental human need. Our livelihoods all depend on reliable methods that help us move. Whether we use our own pedals or those of a machine, and whether we move our atoms or other molecules, we face obstacles along the way. Price, distance, availability, weather, delays, and wrong turns. The best thing that can happen for humanity is that more of us get to travel to visit other countries. Yes, getting people and products to places faster- both for work and play- is also something we want to improve, but with 50% of the world’s population living in cities, do we rely on the invisible hand, centralization, or a combination?
Can you imagine one day paying for your Uber with your attention? All you have to do is watch ads the whole ride and permit algorithms to analyze your eyes and heartrate. What if you get to ride for free as long as you buy $30 worth of goods from Amazon during the ride? What if celebrities always ride for free provided they co-market mobility services to their constituents? If you can do all your shopping and work in mixed reality from the comfort of your own home, will you still need to consume as much mobility-as-a-service? The shift, as it were, is not just about removing costly human error from the transportation system, but applying new business models and technologies to make better use of what we’ve already got.
The emerging driverless economy eliminates massive inefficiencies in our productivity as a species. There are roughly 1.5b cars on our roads. If 2/3rd are owner operated an average of 30 minutes a day, that’s 30 billion minutes of attention suddenly available for other tasks. Sure some of us will blow it on scrolling and staring, but imagine playing poker with your friend’s holographic representations, strumming the guitar, reading, writing, meditating, or even taking an online course. Or what about playing an interactive augmented reality game where you shoot lasers at other cars as they pass by? Or living someone else’s life through their eyes? Who will monetize this attention and how will this market evolve?
The “God” view, as Uber puts it, is coming to a data center near you. The full picture. A complete, real-time understanding of each vehicle’s location, speed, and ETA. With Waze, CCTV, induction loops, and dashcams already working together to map reality; city, county, regional, and state officials will soon have the data and connectivity to see the world from above and on the ground simultaneously. Yet they will need a much more sophisticated brain than the one floating in their skulls to handle the petabytes of numbers, letters, and images emerging at the edge and streaming to the cloud. This is a job for AI.
AI will prioritize trucks over cars, if we design it to. AI will send more public buses to and from the stadium if there’s abnormally high ticket sales because Lebron is in town. AI will hit the brakes, recommend routes, and extend yellow lights — but it won’t talk its way out of a speeding ticket. The thorny ethics and split-second moral judgments AI will need to address on the road remains a mystery. As Yuval Harari notes, autonomous vehicles will need to explain their choices when death is at stake, and automakers must create software that chooses based on calculations it makes and rules that govern those calculations. These rules will be investigated in depth by regulators once enough moral dilemmas are actualized, but perhaps the answer to this question lies with the consumer. The ethics of each car can be adjusted to fit the desires of the consumer, now also accountable.
Transportation is transforming. But it’s on us to shape the outcome. We must inform ourselves to understand the tradeoffs as new transportation technologies get introduced to our social fabric. We should invest our time and resources in companies that improve safety, speed, reliability, agility, peace of mind, and the global standard of living. Now let’s get moving!
If you’d like to trade ideas around the future of transportation — feel free to ping me at Max@lool.vc