I attended the Northeast Tarrant County Transportation Summit in Hurst, Texas last Friday. Around 700 professional and politicians attended the conference. The theme of the conference was our autonomous transportation future. Everyone seems to be moving toward a future in which 10% of auto sales by 2030 will be self-driving.
This may happen, but I have serious concerns regarding our autonomous future. The latest presidential election highlighted the notion that people were voting for a return to the certainties of the 1950s. This sounds like a 427 cubic inch Mustang made 100% in America with gas prices rolling in at $0.40 per gallon. People want 1950 and yet we are thinking futuristic 2050. Squaring self-driving technology with cultural constraints and a political desire to slow things down and invest in stability seems hugely problematic. This is just one side of the coin. The other side looks even more problematic. America is aging and older societies take fewer risks. What is more riskier than changing our primary mode of transportation that has been somewhat unchanged since 1920?
I love the idea of autonomous vehicles and flying cars - - if we can develop the technology, it will be a huge plus for society. But we have very strong political, cultural, and demographic headwinds to overcome.