The Upcoming Revolution of Urban Planning driven by Self-Driving Cars

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Sometimes I ponder the future. Technology is our new god, and what will this god bring us? I suppose it’s a bit of armchair philosophy, but with the unstoppable barrage of technological advances in our lives, it’s almost an unavoidable hobby. So, this week’s blog is to pique your imagination - and possibly begin a visualization process one of of the biggest societal changes we’ve encountered during this Internet Revolution. That is, the advent of the self-driving (autonomous) car.

Google Celebrates 15th Anniversary As Company Reaches $290 Billion Market Value

Google Celebrates 15th Anniversary As Company Reaches $290 Billion Market Value

If you haven’t heard, Google has already developed a self-driving car, and many of the major automobile manufacturers are working on versions of their own. Even Apple has recently been toying with the technology, according to speculation. So, suffice it to say that at some point in the next 5, 10, or 15 years, you will most likely be utilizing one yourself.

But the point of my blog is not to discuss how or when the adoption of the self-driving car will come about, or what legal, political, and economic challenges may occur along the way. I want to provoke you into visualizing what can happen AFTER that transition has occurred.

In other words, how will the self-driving car change your life?

Most likely, if you’re familiar with the topic, you’ve thought about how convenient it would be to check your emails or text while your car does the driving for you. Or you’ve considered the trade-off between less traffic and less freedom. What happens to the thrill of putting pedal to metal and feeling the exhilaration of a sports car’s rapid acceleration?

For some of the more imaginative, perhaps you’ve considered the contribution a self-driving car would make to teenage romances, or catching up on the latest game or flick while commuting to work.

But let’s take it further.

If the vehicle operates itself, why be confined to a seat facing forward? Why not reconsider all aspects of automative design? Form follows function, and if the function is no longer driving, the form can change significantly.

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The obvious first thought becomes the existing design of luxurious vehicles, limousines. Auto interiors can move from seats to sofas, from glove compartments to mini-fridges. From there we go to the next level — perhaps one’s commute can exist in a comfortable living room-style setting, as in today’s motor homes (especially if fuel is affordable).

This is where things get exciting. What if self-driving car technology not only revolutionizes transportation but also housing?

For instance, if a motor home is a mobile home, then what can happen when no one needs to drive them? What if everyone had self-driving mobile homes instead of self-driving cars? And what if these mobile homes were designed as modern offices, or creative spaces, or living spaces instead of camping-style vehicles?

Perhaps self-driving cars are really the start of “mobile rooms” - as mobile phones revolutionized communications, mobile rooms would revolutionize urban planning.

Let’s think a few steps beyond today’s analogies and brainstorm. Could we “network” housing? Perhaps a house becomes a modular link of rooms, connected by hallways that open and close in a standardized fashion. In the same way that a space station, either in sci-fi shows such as the Battlestar Galactica or Star Trek, feature spaceships that interlock and unlock, mobile rooms could connect at night, so the family is together, then disconnect in the morning, with each room going its separate way. Parents could take their own rooms to meetings or community spaces, children could take their rooms to educational spaces.

The traditional school wouldn’t need to be confined to the same location, but could instead mobilize and reconfigure based on the progress of children’s education and the needs of the curriculum. And an office as we know it wouldn’t be needed - work teams would gather by interlocking their mobile rooms and using community spaces.

It may be overwhelming to imagine this type of societal change, but science fiction authors and filmmakers have been doing it for years. However, instead of this occurring in outer space or on a different planet, we may see the evolution of our society rapidly transforming into a true revolution, with the technology of self-driving cars becoming a catalyst of broad disruption.

I’m sure that my ideas here are only scratching the surface, and as the creativity flows amongst the visionaries, the picture of society in the near to mid term will become sharper and very robust.

Self-driving cars almost feel humble, compared to where we’re headed. And I’m excited about joining for the ride!

Cheers! —Stu

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2013 Consumer Electronics Show Highlights Newest Technology

2013 Consumer Electronics Show Highlights Newest Technology

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