Self-Driving Trucks

“Since early October, autonomous trucks built and operated by the startup Embark have been hauling Frigidaire refrigerators 650 miles along the I-10 freeway, from a warehouse in El Paso, Texas, to a distribution center in Palm Springs, California.”

“For now, the Embark milk runs are designed to test logistics as well as the safety of the technology. On each trip, a human driver working for Ryder (a major trucking company and Embark’s partner on this venture) heads over to the Frigidaire lot in El Paso, picks up a load of refrigerators, hauls them to the rest stop right off the highway, and unhitches the trailer. Then, a driver working for Embark hooks that trailer up to the robotruck, cruises onto the interstate, pops it into autonomous mode, and lets it do its thing. The truck mostly sticks to the right lane and always follows the speed limit. Once in Palm Springs, the human pulls off the highway, unhitches the trailer, and passes the load to another Ryder driver, who takes it the last few miles to Frigidaire’s SoCal distribution center.”


The end of human-driven vehicles

Bob Lutz worked for Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, and BMW, usually as a product guru. I believe he was the guy responsible for the Dodge Viper. In this article he predicts that in 20 years (at the latest) human-driven vehicles will be legislated off the highways.

The end state will be the fully autonomous module with no capability for the driver to exercise command. You will call for it, it will arrive at your location, you’ll get in, input your destination and go to the freeway. On the freeway, it will merge seamlessly into a stream of other modules traveling at 120, 150 mph. The speed doesn’t matter. You have a blending of rail-type with individual transportation.

Will demand for oil plummet?

It would be like a game of Risk that’s been going on for three days and your three-year-old comes in and gleefully turns the board over. [CNBC]

RethinkX co-founder and Stanford University economist and professor Tony Seba told CNBC’s Street Signs that the rise of self-drive cars will see oil demand plummet, the price of oil drop to $25 a barrel, and oil producers left without the political or financial capital they have today.

“He says we are not going to stop driving altogether, just switch to self-drive electric vehicles, which will become a much larger part of the sharing economy. And these electric vehicles are going to cost less to both buy and run. […] There will be no more petrol or diesel cars, buses and trucks sold anywhere in the world within 8 years. Which also means no more car dealers by 2024.”

“China wants to get electric, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell cars to account for 20 per cent of all auto sales by 2025, while India aims to electrify all vehicles in the country by 2032.”

How self-driving cars could change real estate

Driverless cars could become a reality in five years, and will profoundly affect real estate within eight or nine years. A few possibilities:

  • Roughly 15 to 20% of your living space constructed in the average home is devoted to the garage
  • Each urban area will have a hub, but it won’t be in the expensive part of town — it will be in the cheaper part of town, right off the freeway
  • Fewer parking lots. In 2016, in the D.C. area, commercial underground parking garages added 10-12% to the cost of office construction. In residences, each additional parking space increased the cost of development per unit by 25%. Driverless cars could make these parking lots a relic of the past
  • There are 125,000 gas stations in the United States in prime real estate, you won’t need those anymore

Flying about to change completely. Because of cars.

10 to 15 years from now, the flying experience could look vastly different because of self-driving cars. Co.Design »

In Europe, high-speed rail wins 50% of all traffic when the journey length is less than 4.5 hours, according to the French National Railroads, and wins 90% of traffic when the journey is two hours or less.

Bags will get picked up in the city and travel separate from you and land at your destination. People won’t be traveling with their luggage. Perhaps it’s picked up by a self-driving car or a specific baggage robot instead.

And if an airline is controlling your ground transportation, it’ll be able to provide other services as well. “They come pick you up, they load your baggage, and potentially, your bag will be screened while sitting in the vehicle.

No more car chase movies?

Everything I’ve read to date about autonomous vehicles has led me to believe this technology is inevitable. Not if, just when. But something (finally?) occurred to me a couple of days ago that has me reconsidering. This would mean the end of car chases in movies, wouldn’t it? The horror! Think of all the great car chases in the last fifty years.

“The consensus among historians and film critics is that the first modern car chase movie was 1968’s Bullitt. The revolutionary 10-minute-long chase scene in Bullitt was far longer and far faster than what had gone before, and placed cameras so that the audience felt as though they were inside the cars.” (Wikipedia)

Terminator, French Connection, The Blues Brothers, To Live and Die in L.A., The Bourne Identity, The Italian Job, Mad Max: Road Warrior (okay, we’d probably still have that), Vanishing Point, The Matrix Reloaded (will we have autonomous motorcycles?). And the list goes on and on.

You’re gonna tell me it will drone chases or something like those vertical “highways” in Minority report or The Fifth Element but, man, it won’t be the same. Is it too late to stop this train?