What is future truck driving going to be? If you could tune in to the thoughts of the motorists stuck in a typical rush hour traffic jam, you would probably find most of them wishing they could just flip a switch on their vehicle dashboard and lift off from the road like a helicopter, ascend several hundred feet about the snarled traffic, and then zoom off to their destination. Who among us has not wished for a flying car in situations like this? Flying cars have been around in science fiction and comic books for a hundred years, but in spite of the fervent wishes of rush hour motorists everywhere, they were never more than a fantasy.
Real Flying Cars
Until now, that is. An article in November 2017 in Tech Crunch listed no fewer than 15 startup companies working on flying cars and said they had raised more than $310 million in capital. That is heavyweight startup cash, and it means venture capitalists are taking the prospect of flying cars very seriously indeed. Some experts are predicting the first mass-market flying cars could be as little as ten years away.
Are we ready for this? It is hard enough for some people to drive safely when they are confined to an asphalt roadway, but what is going to happen if they have the whole sky available to them? Teenage drivers, in particular, are known for ignoring the rules of the road and going over the speed limit. Do we really want to give a reckless 18-year old the ability to speed in the wild blue yonder? And who is going to enforce that? We will need to have traffic cops waiting on roofs of buildings for a speeding teen, ready to swoop down in their flying patrol cars and tell the teen to land in the nearest open field. And what about drunk drivers? Traffic cops will have to make a decision and decide if someone is flying their car under the influence. If they buzz the local high school too many times? Or what about the car enthusiasts who like to soup up their vehicles? Are they going to be allowed to put jet engines in their flying hot rods, so they can break the sound barrier while taking their date to the movies?
There are all sorts of thorny questions to resolve. Now, some pundits say that we don’t have to worry about these kinds of problems, because for quite a while flying cars will be limited to things like self-driving taxis. Well, I don’t know about you, but the thought of getting in a car that is piloted by a computer and has the ability to take me hundreds of feet in the air is a little unnerving. What if the flying cars GPS system does not see the thunderstorm straight ahead and flies straight into it? Or what if it has a glitch that makes it fly straight into the side of a building? These are not comforting thoughts. It seems people who make predictions about the wondrous future of flying cars don’t think about these things, I am sure.
Self Driving Trucks
And then there are the self-driving trucks. These babies are already well along the road to implementation, and in fact, a company called Otto performed the worlds first test of a self-driving truck last October when it shipped 52,000 cans of Budweiser by truck on a 120-mile trip in Colorado. None of the Budweiser ended up in a ditch along the road, and beer drinkers all over Colorado got their supply of suds without a problem. The conventional wisdom about self-driving trucks is that they will ease the driver shortage in the trucking industry, reduce costs, and speed up deliveries. That is all well and good, but self-driving trucks will not be without their issues.
Like, what is going to happen to the ratings for country music, political talk shows, and sports events when there are no human truckers left to tune in? Although who knows, maybe the computers driving the trucks will have their favorite type of music, perhaps there will be a boom in stations that play Muzak and electronic tunes. And what about truck stops? Will the traditional truck stop survive, or will it disappear, the sassy waitresses, industrial strength coffee, and slabs of pie fading into the sunset? What will replace them, restaurants for self-driving trucks? I can see the billboard now, Joe’s Truck Stop. Exit 124. Best Charging Stations On The Highway! Your Motherboard Will Feel Like New! Somehow it just does not sound right, does it?
Sharing The Road
Of course, drivers don’t like sharing the road with self-driving trucks, because it just would not be as much fun cutting in front of a tractor-trailer that does not have a human driver at the wheel. And don’t even talk about making obscene gestures at a self-driving truck, It just doesn’t have that same thrill.
On the serious side, the absence of humans in the cab of a truck will undoubtedly mean that car drivers who run into trouble and have to pull over on the shoulder of a lonely interstate won’t be getting any help from a truck as it passes. A computer system won’t have the same Good Samaritan feeling as it whizzes down the highway.
Will there come a time when nobody does any driving anymore? When all the vehicles on the road (and in the sky) are piloted by computers, and the humans sit back and let the software do the driving? Are the car chases in Hollywood movies going to be done with nobody behind the wheel? When the Indianapolis 500 is won by a driverless car? It is a scary thought, even if the cars turn out to be more efficient and safer than the ones driven by people.
Somehow, though, I don’t think we have to worry about that scenario playing out anytime soon. People are just too attached to their cars to give up driving that easily. For many years in the future, there will still be folks who want to get behind the wheel of a car and let it loose on the highway, not the sky, perhaps with the top down and the wind streaming through their hair. That is a feeling you can not get when a computer drives your car. Is worth even the hassle of getting stuck in traffic jams from time to time.
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Yes, the world is going through a lot of changes and technology is advancing at sonic speed. I doubt I will be around to see all this take place, but I will be here to watch as it gets developed. It is going to be fun to sit at home and watch the evening news about all the flying taxis falling in the middle of the self-driving cars and trucks. Can you imagine how long that is going to take to get things straight after a major malfunction? I hope, in the end, too many people don’t get hurt.
If you would like to read more and something a little more serious check out one of my earlier posts here:
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