I'm increasingly convinced it will be the second most important 'invention' that I will see get to scale from more or less a standing start within my lifetime.
The first of course is the Internet (let's not overthink this). Of course there are many adjacencies and blurred lines associated with the Internet, but actually it is precisely the abundance of adjacencies (aka second order effects / positive externalities) inherent to autonomous transportation (AT) that leads me to my belief.
I won't rehash too much here — I'm certainly not the first to point this out. People who have already written about the importance of AT rightly list out all the various industries and activities that AT like driverless cars will greatly impact:
- Civic Planning
- Law Enforcement
- Media & Entertainment
Morgan Stanley even tried to quantify this and came up with a multi-trillion dollar estimation.
Trillion with a T.
It's actually pretty believable if you think about how massive each of those industries above are, and just how profound an impact the ability to transport oneself on-demand and without human navigation required could have on each of them. [And as I've hinted, I think we're on the cusp of a non-linear deployment stage, and that we'll soon start to really outpace expectations that we had for AT just a few years back.]
But what doesn't always get as much attention is the impact AT can have on our collective happiness.
Or at least unhappiness...
It turns out, one of the biggest causal drivers (pardon the pun) of misery across the world is commuting to work. Long commutes have been directly linked to things like obesity, neck pain, loneliness, divorce, stress and insomnia. However, when all that time can be spent recharging/being productive/being entertained vs. rushing/wasting time/worrying...I believe this has the potential to change how a large portion of our workforce who have to drive to work everyday go about their lives in a big, big way.
In fact, I'm often reminded at a much smaller scale how the invention of the iPod totally changed my own working life as an NYC commuter. I used to regularly feel bored or anxious traveling to the office on a train or subway. I now look forward to my ride into work or to a meeting when I can take some time to catch up on a podcast or book I'd been meaning to get to. It's completely changed my beginning and end of each day. I see a similar but much more far-reaching parallel to driverless cars and other AT, and their effect on happiness and productivity in our society, particularly in this country.
So I'll go ahead and call it: Autonomous Transportation = #2 BFD before I die.
Who's got the under?