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One car – one person. That’s bad. But it can get worse!

What about your toddler driving your car? It might become feasible in the very near future. Image credit: The Guardian

For those of you that are not familiar with US highways, they have a peculiar sign indicating a reserved lane (sometimes more than one) for cars with 2 or more people on board. And if you happen to drive on those highway you’ll be surprised to see how many cars are not taking that lane, meaning that most cars, by far, have just the driver on board.

One car for just one passenger seems a waste of money and energy, and yet that is the “normal” situation. Having two or more passengers is the exception, not the norm (at least in the US, but it goes for several other Countries).

I was reminded of that as I read an article on Inverse reporting a recent interview with Elon Musk, the Tesla boss. He was saying that by the end of this year Tesla cars will be upgraded to be able to become self driving (actually you will not able to sleep at the wheel, for that you will have to wait, according to Elon, one more year).  What made me think was an example he gave to highlight the potential of the upgraded cars: you can call the car with your smartphone as you step out of the restaurant and the car will come and get you leaving the parking slot it found after dropping you at the restaurant.

Now, think about it: a car that is not just self driving, rather a car that is driving all alone, with no passenger on board. See what I meant: it can get worse, we might be moving from a car with just one passenger to cars without any passenger!

Indeed, once your car has the capability of picking you up, it is just a minor step to have it doing your shopping. You need detergent for the washing machine? Why bother to go to the mall and pick it up. Send the car! It wouldn’t be a big deal to have an app made by your store where you can tell them your car is on the way to pick up detergent (and a 6 pack of beer…). Once the car gets there, there will be a loading point with a person (more likely a robot) putting the merchandise in the car and out it goes, straight back to your home.

I wouldn’t think this as futuristic. It is probably just around the corner….

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.