The Internet is often seen as the gold standard when it comes to innovation and future thinking. In contrast, transportation or automotive are often seen as the perfect example for old school and traditional thinking. Now taking both together, one finds great similarities and the evolution of the Internet helps to understand what autonomous driving might bring to our daily lives.
Iwould like to put out what I have been thinking about and discussing with many of you over the past years: what will autonomous transportation be once we have “it”. My short answer these days is “I have no idea, and similar to that no one could have predicted what the Internet might become, we cannot say what a world of autonomous vehicles might look like.” This is your “indispensable cheat sheet” for your next future mobility discussion.
In the chart we see more of the underlying detail that leads me to think that there are very important similarities between the Internet and transportation, especially autonomous driving. The Internet goes back to a government program, that evolved into research, went commercial after almost 20 years, and today has become pervasive, be it for business, administrative, social, or almost any other purpose.
Transportation in its core definition (and that includes “personal mobility”) fulfills a very similar purpose as the internet, i.e. transportation moves physical objects (people and goods) around while the Internet moves virtual objects (data) around.
In that context it is surprising to see how the timeline of the early evolution in both cases, from “first steps” to “limited use”, seem to be following a pretty similar timeline, 12 years and then maybe another 5 years to public use and commercial applications.
This leads me to believe 2 things:
1. Given the similarities of “moving things around”, the impact of autonomous driving might be similar to the impact that the Internet has had on our daily lives
2. Given that both started in government, then research, and eventually moving to commercial and social, the timelines to full scale could be similar as well.
That would mean by 2050 we should have a better understanding of what autonomous driving can and cannot do, and what it might lead to that we can simply not conceive of today. But it might take that long…