Autonomous Vehicles are the New New Thing. Why does AR Get All the Hype?
Conventional wisdom in the tech world holds that VR and AR is the New New Thing, the revolutionary change agent that might finally unseat mobile as the platform of innovation, growth, and entrepreneurship. Certainly AR/VR technology is coming, but the impact it will have on everyday life and the way business gets done is far from assured. Autonomous, on the other hand, is already here, and its impact on our lives will be transformative on an iPhone magnitude scale.
Marketing and R&D departments of tech saves companies publicize new speculative VR and AR business models and use cases every day. They reimagine everything from athletics to shopping to architecture. These concepts are neat, and might well become viable businesses. But despite similar promise, the Autonomous industry has been conspicuously muted.
Google’s Waymo self-drive developer made a few ripples with a endearing spot in which a blind man experiences boundless mobility through the use of one of their prototypes. Starsky, a company that makes highway ready autonomous trucks that are remote controlled by real truck drivers in a distant office park, also won some acclaim for envisioning a new place for potentially displaced road workers.
Unlike, VR and AR there are already hundreds of proven businesses built on autonomous technologies just waiting for the technology to catch up. The past five years have seen an explosion of shared vehicle and on demand taxi services; the introduction of autonomous will be a shot of adrenaline to the heart, and will alone transform the way we interact with towns, cities, and our built environment at large.
But these are really just incremental improvements on mobility and accessibility. Rarely do we see images of truly transformative autonomous concepts.
And yet there are many.
Children younger than 12 will be traveling long distances alone, especially in suburbs and other dispersed or dangerous neighborhoods. Autonomous sleeper cars will certainly displace a significant share of the short haul flight market. Restaurants might set the mies-en-scene of their dining rooms by ditching valet services sending a custom themed vehicle to collect customers.
There will also be an incredible wave of autonomous services that have nothing to do with moving people.
For example, telepresence conference rooms or work stations will be summoned to the home. Vehicle mounted jacuzzis will park themselves in your drive way for the night for a nominal fee. Public bathrooms mounted on autonomous wheel beds will appear on demand via mobile or in response to large crowds assembling. Self storage will come to you.
Unlike AR and VR, Autonomous will not face the friction most new products must overcome in attracting early adopters before advancing to the mainstream. This is because the first autonomous vehicles will immediately save users thousands of dollars a year they would otherwise use to purchase, maintain, fuel, and insure a car (or hire a cab). Self driving cars in Uber-like shared fleets will be in productive use more than 60% of the time, compared to a regular vehicle’s ~4%, accounting for much of the savings.
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg; but in my research, I’ve found it difficult to find imaginative minds willing to speculate what other new models might be around the corner. In part, this is likely because there is inevitably going to be a storm of public anxiety around the adoption of autonomous technologies, something AR and VR do not face.
In my interviews with families as potential users, queries about the future of autonomous mobility are usually met with concerns about safety by children and parents alike. ‘Truck driver’ is the most common vocation in most states, and news of their selection for sacrifice at the alter of Silicon Valley innovation is now met with denial, with anger impending. We felt tremors of this with the tabloid hysteria over Uber’s surge pricing that rocked its initial entrance to urban markets.
Given this reality, it is no wonder autonomous developers are coy about the exuberant transformation they wish to impose upon the world (especially compared to the visions of grandeur broadcast by AR/VR).
Autonomous Vehicles are the New New Thing. Why does AR Get All the Hype? was originally published in You Are On The Fastest Route on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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