Self-driving cars are definitely in our future. Some states–Nevada, Florida, Michigan, California–and Washington, D.C. are already allowing them on their streets (at least for testing purposes) and a number of others are considering doing the the same. Though the road to a hands-free life has been paved, the future of it all is still up in the air. What would allowing self-driving cars on the road en masse mean for our safety? How will we communicate our needs to them? In what ways will they change how we live day to day? And can they enrich our lives?
International design group and think tank IDEO wants to explore what this new technology could mean for urban life over the next 15 years. With their study “The Future of Automobility” they offer up a wildly vibrant vision through three concepts grounded in the use of autonomous vehicles.
The Future of Automobility features three visions that focus on transparent delivery trucks, roving work stations and personal vehicles that know where we need to get before we even realize it. These visions address life over the next 15 years, and though far from reality, they’re meant to get us thinking about what’s to come—because it is indeed coming.
On IDEO’s dedicated site they write: “Based on our design thinking approach, we take into account business, technology and disability lenses as we spot patterns that indicate how things may play out in the future. For consumers, they may be presented a choice of owning a vehicle or owning access to one […] For businesses, timely delivery of goods will further enhance their productivity. We expect that businesses will have more flexibility in how they expand and that automobility will play a role in where they find themselves.”
Vision #1. Your personal vehicle. Just get in, and your car of the future takes care of the rest. Pulling data from emails, your calendar and text messages, your vehicle will know exactly what to do to get you where you need to be, on time. On the road it syncs up with other vehicles to tailgate with those heading in the same direction as you, maximizing road space and saving time and fuel. Inside, your vehicle boasts more space to spread out, watch a movie, or work if you so wish.
Vision #2. Super smart delivery trucks. A replacement for your disgruntled postman? These futuristic delivery trucks–called “Cody”–have dedicated territory and show off their goods through a transparent shell. Packages are tracked in real-time and Cody takes direct commands—meaning if you want it at your home at noon, the truck will show up then, and if there’s a change of plans, you can let the delivery system know via an app and it will reroute or redeliver your package at a specified time or place. To pick up your package, just allow the system to scan your face. The truck also operates off-peak and can determine the most efficient routes to save on time and fuel. IDEO estimates a fleet of Codys could render annual savings of $101 billion in gas and oil expenditures in the US.
Vision #3. WorkOnWheels. Hate that morning commute? The workplace of the future removes all of that but still allows for face-to-face collaboration. Instead of heading to the office, your self-driving office comes to you and will even bring to you new locales daily to spark inspiration. A secondary goal of this is to put underused city infrastructure to use, particularly as office spaces become limited and prices rise with increases in population. The pods are also modular, meaning they can be expanded and customized to meet changing needs. And at the end of the day, your office will drive itself back to its home hub and recharge for use the next day.
What do you think of IDEO’s vision of the future? We personally would love to see the WorkOnWheels concept come to fruition!
All images courtesy of IDEO