Panta Rhei – The Only Constant is Change
Good Morning Jared – Said the soft pleasant female robotic voice.
I open my eyes, waking up. Looking around I see the date and time flashing on the glass above my head. 7:30 am 7/19/2038. I step out of my sleep tube, stretch and start what is just another day in 2038.
Imagine all the possibilities of our future in 20 years. I try to be a realistic optimist, but after a few episodes of Black Mirror, it can be easy to stray from that path. However, I just want to focus on a few big questions I’ve been thinking about when doing a thought experiment on the future of the automobile industry. I mean the future is pretty clear, residents in Phoenix, AZ are already among the first people to publicly try self-driving cars. So many unanswerable questions.. Insurance, end-user ownership, design and function, aftermarket complimentary products, outdoor recreation, the list goes on.
As an automobile enthusiast who loves to drive and control the intricate machine, we call a vehicle I feel the most pressing concern is how long will it take for it to be near impossible to physically drive a car on the road. It sounds impossible and crazy to even think that but look at the adoption rate of a smartphone and how drastically it has changed the world around it. In just over 10 years we’ve gone from a device barely capable of simple text messaging and phone calls to accessing a rich media filled world that was completely redesigned just for the mobile screen, which we now couldn’t live without. The warning signs are already very clear, you can see manufactures pivoting away from the consumer to a tighter product line able to deliver more value to massive self-driving fleet customers. For example, the recent Waymo Fiat deal for 62,000 minivan taxis’, and Ford getting rid of all cars in North America during the next four years except for the Mustang sports car and a compact Focus crossover vehicle. What does that mean for some future generations chance of car ownership? Will they never experience the joy of slaving away at some crappy summer job for a few years just to buy your first slice of true freedom with your shiny new driver’s license and a car to call your own? Or will it be more of taken for granted luxury as from an early age they could just click a button on an app or have the computer chip in their brain call up a car with no driver to take them wherever their heart desires? The scary thing is, is that no one will ever have to say no you can’t drive its illegal at least not for quite a while, but these massive companies will just price you out of the market and make it even more obscenely expensive than it currently is to own and operate a vehicle.
What does something like that mean for the global automotive aftermarket industry that was valued at $335.23 billion USD in 2016? When you hear talk about job loss from automation, is this what they are referring to? What isn’t clear is how this will work in an area with access to the wild untamed backcountry that Canada is famous for. How is my little Waymo self-driving compact car or minivan going to take me up that steep unpaved logging roads to get to my secret fishing hole? Will it be able to hook up to a trailer or get loaded up with the ton of equipment I required for a nice relaxing week deep in the woods with my family? Right now, I rely on a vehicle that was chosen specifically for this task, which was then taken to a local outfitter who had to further customize and adapt the vehicle to help it perform safely and comfortably wherever I decide to roam. I’m pretty sure the last few times I used Uber while traveling there was no option to choose a lifted 4×4 off-road capable truck, able to tow a boat, trailer or any of my other possible dream toys.
After wasting hours sitting in horrible Metro Vancouver traffic, or witnessing and even experiencing some of the worst aspects of what a ton steel can do to another vehicle or person, can cause a someone to hope and dream of a fast-approaching self-driving transportation reality. But this reality will have far-reaching implications and connections that we can’t even fathom. An ancient old man named Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 500 BCE) said it best “Panta Rhei” or loosely translated life is flux as in the only constant is change itself. This cannot be more a more adapt description for the times we live in, where we now see more change in a lifetime than could ever be imagined, and it’s only increasing in pace. No one has any clear indication of where we are headed or what to expect when we arrive but there is no going back only forward, so try to not fear change instead run full steam ahead into the unknown and enjoy your experience along the way