Templeton Sees Self-Driven Auto-Swarms in 15 Years

March 04 2008 / by memebox
Category: Social Issues   Year: Beyond   Rating: 2

If Brad Templeton’s imagination manifests itself, we’ll be walking through swarms of speeding self-driven cars sooner than later. And that will be a very good thing.

As Templeton (EFF Chairman, Board member of the Nanotech Foresight Institute, and founder of the world’s first internet-based business) points out in this audio transcipt, driving cars “kills about 45,000 people every year.” In his words, “That’s 15 World Trade Centers.”

“There’s another cost too,” adds Templeton, “which is that cars produce 40% of the pollution, the greenhouse gas emissions in our society. ... Having humans not drive cars actually could solve the pollution problems, as well as the congestion problems, and the wasted time, and all the horrible horrible death.”

All are inarguably great reasons to reduce the role of human drivers.

“If you don’t have to have people drive cars, you can have drive the right car for the trip,” points out Templeton, “So, if you’re just going to the store that’s a couple of miles away – well, actually, you may not even have to go, you could just send your car to get the stuff. Rather … you’d send something maybe the size of a bicycle that would go and get the stuff.”

So when might we actually see commercially marketed self-driven vehicles?

“I think we could have them in a very short time if we wanted to,” he argues, qualifying, “I think we could have them in the neighborhood of eight to ten years, [but] I think there will be legal hurdles and so on along the way, and opposition from existing entrenched parties that will delay it to more like 15 years or so.”

And how might these skeptics be won over?

According to Templeton, “They’ll give the skeptic a Hummer, and say, ‘here, take your Hummer out into that stream of self-driving cars, and try to hit one.’ And they’ll take their Hummer … and they’ll go back and forth, and like [a school of] fish, they won’t be able to touch one. And then they’ll suddenly realize, ‘y’know, maybe I could get into one of these things.’”

So in the future will we all own self-driven cars, or will communities share these technologies?

Templeton: “[Y]ou’ll have people who want to own a car, ... not everyone, but a lot of people. Some people will be not quite as wealthy or not willing to spend that much, and what they’ll do is they’ll own a car, and that car will be their servant, ... but, when they’re not using the car, they’ll hire it out. And so it will then be at the beck and call of other people who pay a rental fee for it. And then of course there will be cars that are for just that purpose, effectively the equivalent of taxis today. Cars that you can just push a button on your cell phone and one immediately stops in front of you and takes you where you want to go. And then there’ll be people who feel they don’t need to own any car, because they can do that. Not only do you push the button on your cell phone and a car stops in front of you, but the right type of car stops in front of you. And if you give it some advanced warning, it maybe even goes and picks up your things before you get into it, if you want to have things that you store that are available to you when you’re traveling. And so if you tell it, I just want to go across town, it’ll be a small electric one person vehicle. If you tell it you want to go to the lumber store to get drywall, it’ll be a little truck.”

Now that’s the sort of future that a lot of people can relate to. But how likely is it that we’ll wake up to the possibilities and accelerate Templeton’s vision?

Templeton sums up, “I’m predicting that there’s a good chance that we’ll wake up to how bad it is that humans drive cars, and start an Apollo project of sorts to change that.”

With a little bit of luck and a whole lot of activism, perhaps we’ll see self-driven Chevy Apollos inside of 15 years.

When will you purchase your first self-driving car?

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