Post Written By
Forbes | FEB 14, 2018
As the Founder and Chairman of XponentialWorks and Vice-Chairman Techniplas®, Chief Executive Officer Techniplas® Digital, Avi Reichental has spent a career foretelling the possibilities of exponential technologies.
CES is the world’s grandest stage for all sorts of electronics, and this year in Las Vegas, there was again no shortage of innovative smartphones, smart home terminals and other gadgets and gizmos. But it’s autonomous cars that continue to dominate our conversations on digital expansion and its wide-reaching implications, and the four-day trade show was proof of this, as it was awash with auto tech.
This year, you can argue that CES surpassed even the Frankfurt and Detroit Auto Shows as the most important automobile expo on earth. That’s because autonomous driving is about a lot more than getting you out of the driver’s seat and away from the steering wheel. The transformation of mobility is going to have a gigantic impact on both suburban and urban areas, thrusting new companies into the spotlight and relegating many traditional technologies to the realm of the obsolete.
Cars, once great feats of mechanics, have now evolved into great feats of electronics. And their future is fully automated: Cars now have the capability of parallel parking on their own, seeing and heeding oncoming traffic, predicting merge time and gauging accurate speed. They can sense light and darkness and adjust their high beams accordingly. They can turn themselves on without the need for an ignition key. As if fulfilling some futuristic fantasy, cars have become fully equipped mobile entertainment, navigation and communication systems on wheels.
The next and final step in this coup d’etat of automobile automation — cars that no longer need a human to steer or push the pedal to the metal — is near. So I wasn’t surprised to see that the automotive component of CES 2018 revolved around two central themes: 1) conversion of the automobile industry to a new spin of manual versus automatic and 2) the thrilling, game-changing disruption that we can anticipate when it comes to these new autonomous cars.
Now that CES has wrapped, there are a number of critical questions we should ask ourselves if we want to be prepared for this seismic shift. For those of us who work in the auto industry and understand the immense, omnipotent role that transport plays in the day-to-day life of every American, here is what we need to consider:
- When you no longer have to drive, how will you occupy your time? Which technologies will take advantage of this new and uncharted gap in American free time, and who will be the first to swoop in with innovations to help us best monopolize our newfound leisure?
- How will we design and optimize the physical space of a self-driving vehicle? If we’re not glued to the driver’s seat and instead have our own freedom of mobility and autonomy of design when it comes to the shape and size of our vehicles, what will we do with this choice? Will cars morph into a combination of work and leisure space? Will they still be outfitted with front-facing seats and a traditional design, or will they become hubs where other tasks of our daily life — cooking, emailing, grooming, relaxing — can be accomplished while on the go?
- As cars transition into entirely digital machines, what will the technology that powers them look like? How will traditional car companies (Toyota, Honda, Subaru, etc.) align themselves with global tech superpowers so that the choice of a car brand equates with the choice of a specific operating system?
- What will traditional car ownership look like in the future?If cars can drive themselves and we are no longer “drivers” ourselves, who will hold the title to each vehicle? If I don’t have to operate a car, then do I truly have to own it?
- What about shared rides?If we push this ownership line of thought further, then will the pay-per-ride model — already so deeply ingrained in our cities thanks to companies like Uber and Lyft — transition into the self-driving realm as well? Will self-driving cars be shared by us all or owned as individual property? Will autonomous driving lead to a revolution of shared mobility capsules as opposed to traditional cars? This year’s CES offered a number of conceptsfeaturing better ergonomics and all the productivity aspects that could help answer that question.
- Is the next generation of vehicle an iPhone on wheels?Dozens of companies are already hard at work preparing for the emergence of cognitively connected, haptic vehicles— ones that don’t just do the driving for their occupants but also offer a fully immersive experience tantamount to a touchscreen iPhone on wheels.
- How will we customize our self-driving cars?Vehicle customization once meant paint color, customized rims or specially equipped stereo and security systems. But that was then. Now customization will be driven by additive manufacturing. We can also expect a second generation of lightweight technology driven by 3-D printing, one which will spawn high-value yet low-volume modifications.
Of course, there were other amazing products on display at CES, but none that are nearly as disruptive and offer such far-reaching implications. For everyone who exited a taxi at the Las Vegas Convention Center or wrangled with hundreds of other cars to enter a parking garage and validate their parking, take note: The way we drive — and therefore the way we live — is poised to change dramatically.