Autonomous Cars Might Be Three Times As Efficient
How efficient could autonomous cars be?
Devin Coldewey, Robot cars could increase highway efficiency 273 percent: Study
The paper is being presented this week at an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) conference on vehicular technology. Its author, Columbia University’s Patcharinee Tientrakool, wrote her dissertation on a method for cars to communicate safely and reliably that she calls “reliable neighborcast protocol,” or RNP.
Research in self-driving vehicles has naturally focused on how to make the car imitate an intelligent driver: recognizing and navigating obstacles, reading signs and performing other common tasks. If there were only going to be a single such vehicle on the road, surrounded by human-guided cars, then that’s the most important thing to perfect. But what if nearly every car on the road is a robo-car?
Tientrakool’s paper looks at the difference in efficiency between when autonomous vehicles don’t communicate and when they act as a team. She concludes that cars simply managing their own speed would increase efficiency by an appreciable 43 percent, but if they were working together, that number jumps to a staggering 273 percent.
Forget the idea of more cars in the same section of highway. That’s interesting, maybe, but more like the dog walking on its hind legs. The interesting thing should be using less gas to cover the same ground, and doing so in less time.
Yes, reducing congestion might be a factor in Beijing or Sao Paolo, at present, but the worldwide imperatives are reducing energy consumption, decreased collisions, and getting time back for commuters.
Swarms of cars, communicating, using swarm logic to minimize congestion and maximize throughput. Next: nanobots to clean out teeth!
Autonomous Truck Convoys Could Cut Fuel Consumption By 15%
The Japanese New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) has been working on autonomous truck convoys, and a recent experiment with a single human-operated lead truck and 3 autonomous follower trucks led to fuel consumption savings of 15%.
After receiving the September issue of Motor Trend a few weeks ago, I was, naturally, elated at the cover. The New Cars edition is always fun. We see confirmed technologies and designs to be coming up rather than uncertain concepts.
But the FIRST FREAKIN’ ARTICLE is Angus Mackenzie’s “Driver Down,” a piece discussing the future of automobiles and autonomous technology. What?! Not the greatest start, guys. I can’t go into looking at the new models with a preconditioned depression.
Everyone knows about Google’s forays into autonomous Prius’s moving about Southern California. According to Mackenzie, they’ve covered more than 140,000 miles so far.
Big whoop. My truck has too.
The reality is, this is the way the automotive industry is moving. It’s a comfort to have someone feel the same way I do. Although, after asking several of my friends what they thought (none being “car people” in the slightest,) none of them found the thought appealing. Who really hates driving?
I live in the Midwest, where L.A.-like traffic jams are rarely seen. So I’m probably not one to talk.
Still. Driving is a wonderful experience. Being the person I am, I cannot imagine wasting precious gas with hands on a burger rather than the steering wheel.
In the article, Mackenzie discusses government mandate as the driving force behind companies producing autonomous cars. Whether American automakers would actually put up with that is debatable, and the issue smells too political for me to discuss it. What I’m concerned about is the implementation of completely autonomous cars.
I’m fairly familiar with most of the technology involved, and I would not consider it reliable enough (at this point,) to justify letting the driver sleep through an automated road trip. And I have serious doubts as to the general public being comfortable with that anyway.
I, for one, enjoy being in complete control. My vehicle of choice is a 20-year-old Toyota pickup. No traction control, automatic transmission, power windows, power locks, self-locking hubs, or even anti-lock brakes. And I prefer it that way. There’s nothing between me and the road but some mechanical linkages. Of course, that means there’s no electronics to save my ass when I inevitably screw up.
Web, City, Cars, Parking
As the web and urban continue to collide and build on each other, post-industrial concerns like parking will be managed in very different ways. Instead of the 20th century hunter/gatherer model — where people search for empty spaces to park — we’ll see hotel reservation models, autonomous vehicles parking themselves, and dynamic pricing algorithms:
The Networked Urban Environment - Jan Chipchase via design mind
Urban infrastructures are increasingly being equipped with sensors and other means of collecting information and channeling our everyday actions, from energy use to parking patterns, into software and networks that analyze data and act upon it. Cities—and communities— are becoming “smarter” as “the internet of things” evolves. What this means is that more and more people and things, including parking spaces are becoming connected, allowing for better prediction models of traffic and energy usage thanks to real-time data flows, leading to better awareness of current resource statuses and more practical matters such as more dependable payment mechanisms.
The smart-parking scenarios will arrive more quickly than you think—in fact, they’re already nearly here. On the most basic level, anyone can get free driving directions and an instant, estimated time of arrival from Google Maps, when they agree to share where they are at a given moment via GPS. Throughout Europe now, you can reserve public parking spots via SMS messages. In San Francisco, you can time a meeting so that you don’t pay peak-prices for parking, determined by a dynamic market pricing system launched as a pilot program this fall (and running through summer 2012) by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to help alleviate congested streets. It uses real-time data tracking to determing the cost of parking at 7,000 of San Francisco’s 28,000 metered spots, as well as 12,250 spaces in three-quarters of the parking garages owned by the cities.
And then there are much more intricate examples, on epic scales. In September, the technology company Pegasus Holdings announced it is building a $200 million test city on a city scale in New Mexico—from scratch, where it will try out networked parking and transportation systems among other infrastructure innovations. In Asia and the Middle East, smart cities are being built from scratch: Tianjin Eco City in China; Songdo, South Korea; and Masdar in Abu Dhabi. In each of these examples, developers are working to implement traffic-solutions that will make use of new, networked technologies, all as part of creating more energy-efficient communities.
These optimistic visions aren’t just about making parking a more pleasant experience. They’re largely about solving urgent problems in a time of economic and sustainability-related challenges. According to a report by IBM, the economic impact of traffic congestion is $4 billion per year in New York alone, in terms of estimated lost work hours, pollution-related costs, and wasted fuel. In the United States, traffic congestion losses are growing at 8 percent a year, the most recent estimate being $78 billion in 2005. Worldwide, in both developed and developing-world cities, traffic congestion-related expenses represent between 1 percent and 3 percent of most cities’ GDP.
And on a larger scale, beyond parking and traffic, a recent report by Ericsson (published earlier this year) found that the more networked, or “smart,” a city is, the more that city sees benefits to its “triple bottom line” (its financial, societal, and sustainability-related successes). For every 10 percentage points increase in broadband penetration, the report found, the isolated economic effect on GDP growth is approximately 1% of GDP.
As I wrote about not long ago, the percentage of major cities given over to parking (and cars in general) is preposterous. All these schemes for dealing with parking of cars are transitional, because ultimately the payback for eliminating parking is so high that cities will eliminate cars, or change them into something so different they drastically diminish parking (like stackable, foldable, autonomous cars).
How Robots are Transforming the World
Robots aren’t just characters in science fiction movies anymore. Robots are being used in many different industries for many different uses. Some of the more exciting uses of robots are in the fields of military, medical, and human care. This article focuses on how robots are being used to transform the world.
Google’s new autonomous cars that drive themselves in traffic to a specific destination would be a great way to facilitate the mobility of elderly people. My grandmother, for instance, has to call a Dart bus whenever she wants to visit somewhere by herself since she cannot drive herself. When these robot cars are ready for mass production, it will surely grant elderly people more freedom and independence…it will also give the rest of the driving population one less thing to stress out about since they won’t be tailgating older drivers who always go 10 miles under the speed limit. Start the video below at 0:23…slow driving will never be an issue again!
Helpful Robots in Human Care
First, a couple of examples of what could eventually become robot babysitters:
Hanson Robotics is creating robots with realistic facial impressions
The Geminoid DK mimics the movements of its operator. It extremely realistic looking and it actually performs the act of breathing
They’re a bit freaky in my opinion. The robot’s lips sync up to words. Once they develop these robots to walk and “see” via a video camera, you’ve got a robot babysitter that looks like a kid’s parent. Further, once the robot has the functionality to perform basic childcare functions, the robot would not only look like a kid’s parent – it could actually be a child’s parent. Honestly, I don’t think that’s a great idea for a developing child. It just seems to me that it will give a child an unrealistic view of the world. Children should not develop basic trust from a robot.
Plus, if this robot automates the majority of the trivial processes involved in raising a child, what’s to become of the role of a parent? TV is notorious for raising children these days, but think what life would be like if a robot fed, cleaned, and rocked a baby to sleep at night? Parents everywhere would just sit around and play Farmville all night while tweeting about how easy it is to raise a child. The real question is are these robots truly helping us or just making people everywhere lazier?
Finally, virtual pets are coming down the pike. It’s true: robots that look and act like pets. They even interact with their owners. We’ve all heard that having a pet is good for an elderly person’s mental health. However, this is a suitable alternative for owners that have special needs and are not able to own a real pet.
Further, people usually outlive their pets, so this is a great way to gain the benefits, such as companionship and other therapeutic services, but not deal with the realities of death. The question isn’t really can humans truly bond with AI robots, but should they? What if a child had this type of robot as a pet? It would probably be harder to understand life and death when the child’s best friend is an immortal furry metal robot…
There’s definitely value in automating truly trivial tasks such as vacuuming or cleaning a pool. The iRobot Roomba 560 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner is a great way elderly people can clean their house and play with their cats! Finally, cats can clean up their own hairballs. The iRobot Verro Pool Cleaning Robot would be especially useful for an elderly person because strenuous activity could be a health risk. However, that dependency on robots could certainly be detrimental to human health and wellbeing in the long run due to inactivity.
Military & Firefighting Robots
A lot of advances have been made in regards to military robots. These Exoskeleton Robotic Suits (AKA the suit that turns you into a real Iron Man) are a really great example: Read more about the XOS 2 robotics suit.
There’s surly a line between “right” and “wrong” we should consider. For instance, Robokiyu is robot created by the Tokyo Fire Department; its original purpose was to help rescue people asphyxiated by smoke inhalation inside burning buildings. Obviously, this task can be dangerous for fire fighters, so this robot is very helpful. However, when officials realized how versatile this robot could be, they started using it for other duties…such as moving corpses and “dormant” (AKA drunk) people. I think this robot proves it that robots should not be involved in certain processes, despite how helpful they may seem. Shouldn’t the sanctity of death be treated with a little more dignity and respect? Likewise, could you imagine passing out drunk and waking up inside a robot’s belly?
Read more at: http://www.weirdasianews.com/2008/04/20/robot-scooper/
Ethics – where do we draw the line?
If a malfunction occurred, should the corporation that created and sold the robot should be held responsible? Shouldn’t the corporation have tested the robot to always work properly? Obviously, if the consumer didn’t follow the instructions and caused the problem, it would probably void the warranty and any ensuring law suits. I feel that there really needs to exhaustive testing. With software, you can just fix bugs as they occur with relatively minimal repercussions. However, robots have physical power which could potentially injure or kill someone.
Who do you think should be held responsible if there is a problem with one of these robots? The engineers, programmers, corporation, consumer?
Do you know of any other interesting robots? What are some of the ethical and safety considerations that robots create? Do you have any predictions about how robots will change society? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Fasten Your Seatbelts: Google's Driverless Car Is Worth Trillions
Part 1 of a Series
Much of the reporting about Google’s driverless car has mistakenly focused on its science-fiction feel. While the car is certainly cool—just watch the video below about a 95%-blind man running errands—the gee-whiz focus suggests that it is just a high-tech dalliance by a couple of brash young multibillionaires, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
In fact, the driverless car has broad implications for society, for the economy and for individual businesses. Just in the U.S., the car puts up for grab some $2 trillion a year in revenue and even more market cap. It creates business opportunities that dwarf Google’s current search-based business and unleashes existential challenges to market leaders across numerous industries, including car makers, auto insurers, energy companies and others that share in car-related revenue.
Because people consistently underestimate the implications of a change in technology—are you listening, Kodak, Blockbuster, Borders, Sears, etc.?—and because many industries face the kind of disruption that may beset the auto industry, I’m going to do a series of blogs on the ripple effects that the driverless car may create. I’m hoping both to dramatize the effects of a disruptive technology and to illustrate how to think about the dangers and the opportunities that one creates.
In this installment, I’ll start the series with a broad-brush look at the far-reaching changes that could occur from the driver’s standpoint. In the next installment, I’ll show just how far the ripples will reach for companies—not just car makers, but insurers, hospitals, parking lot operators and even governments and utilities. (Fines drop when every car obeys the law, and roads don’t need to be lit if cars can see in the dark).
After that, I’ll explore how real the prospects are for driverless cars. (Hint: The issue is when, not if—and when is sooner than you think.) In the last three installments, I’ll go into the strategic implications for Google, for car makers and, finally, for every company thinking about innovation in these fast-moving times.
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Driverless car technology has the very real potential to save millions from death and injury and eliminate hundreds of billions of dollars of costs. Google’s claims for the car, as described by Sebastian Thrun, its lead developer, are:
- We can reduce traffic accidents by 90%.
- We can reduce wasted commute time and energy by 90%.
- We can reduce the number of cars by 90%.
To put those claims in context:
About 5.5 million motor vehicle accidents occurred in 2009 in the U.S., involving 9.5 million vehicles. These accidents killed 33,808 people and injured more than 2.2 million others, 240,000 of whom had to be hospitalized.
Adding up all costs related to accidents—including medical costs, property damage, loss of productivity, legal costs, travel delays and pain and lost quality of life—the American Automobile Association studied crash data in the 99 largest U.S. urban areas and estimated the total costs to be $299.5 billion. Adjusting those numbers to cover the entire country suggests annual costs of about $450 billion.
Now take 90% off these numbers. Google is claiming its car could save almost 30,000 lives each year on U.S. highways and prevent nearly 2 million additional injuries. Google claims it can reduce accident-related expenses by at least $400 billion a year in the U.S. Even if Google is way off—and I don’t believe it is—the improvement in safety will be startling.
In addition, the driverless car would reduce wasted commute time and energy by relieving congestion and allowing cars to go faster, operate closer together and choose more effective routes. One studyestimated that traffic congestion wasted 4.8 billion hours and 1.9 billion gallons of fuel a year for urban Americans. That translates to $101 billion in lost productivity and added fuel costs.
The driverless car could reduce the need for cars by enabling efficient sharing of vehicles. A driverless vehicle could theoretically be shared by multiple people, delivering itself when and where it is needed, parking itself in some remote place whenever it’s not in use.
A car is often a person’s second largest capital expenditure, after a home, yet a car sits unused some 95% of the time. With the Google car, people could avoid the outlay of many thousands of dollars, or tens of thousands, on an item that mostly sits and, instead, simply pay by the mile. Driving could become Zipcar writ large (except the car comes to you).
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Looking worldwide, the statistics are less precise, but the potential benefits are even more startling. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 1.2 million people are killed on the world’s roads each year, and as many as 50 million others are injured. And the WHO predicts that the problems will only get worse. It estimates that road traffic injuries will become the fifth leading cause of worldwide death by 2030, accounting for 3.6% of the total—rising from the ninth leading cause in 2004, when it accounted for 2.2% of the world total.
If Google could give everyone a world-class electronic driver, it would drastically reduce the deaths, injuries and direct costs of accidents. The driverless car might also save developing countries from ever having to replicate the car-centric infrastructure that has emerged in most western countries. This leapfrogging has already happened with telephone systems: Developing countries that lacked land-line telephone and broadband connectivity, such as India, made the leap directly to mobile systems rather than build out their land-line infrastructures.
China alone expects to invest almost $800 billion on road and highway construction between 2011 and 2015. It is doubtful, however, whether even this massive investment can keep up with the rising accidents and traffic congestion that the country endures. And road construction won’t deal with the issue of pollution, to which the massive car buildup contributes and which, as the following FT video reports, is becoming an ever more politically sensitive issue.
How might China and other developing economic powers’ massive car-related investments be redeployed if fundamental assumptions were viewed through the lens of the driverless car?
In sum, the Google driverless car not only makes for a great demo; it has worldwide social and economic benefits that could amount to trillions of dollars per year.
The Younger You Are, The More You Trust Autonomous Cars
There has always been a fear when it comes to early-adoption of new technologies that heightens based upon age. The old one is when technologies are introduced, the more skeptical they generally treat the concept and application.
This truth holds when it comes to autonomous driving according to this study by J.D. Powers.
From: Shreveport Chevrolet Via: TechnoBuffalo
Audi’s Cars Can Now Park Themselves; Driving Themselves Is Not Far Behind
Move over, Google. Audi just became the second company to be licensed to run autonomous vehicles in Nevada. As we saw at an exhibition of the tech from its Electronic Research Laboratory, its cars are already well on their way to ditching the driver.
A funny thing happened during my visit to the Volkswagen Electronic Research Laboratory. About halfway through the tour, a bus chauffeured us (a group of reporters and business executives) through the entrance of a well-to-do gated community in Belmont, California. We stopped in front of one of the homes, where a man stood waiting, smartphone in hand. He was there to demonstrate Audi’s autonomous vehicle parking technology in the garage of an ERL executive’s house. I had to wonder what the neighbors thought, whether they ever noticed the car driving itself into the garage.
The ERL is where the Volkswagen Group works on all of its truly innovative technologies, like advanced driver assistance, navigation, and of course, piloted driving (Audi prefers the term “piloted” to “autonomous” because it implies that the human in the car still has ultimate responsibility). Last week, Audi announced that it became the first automaker—and second company, after Google—to get an autonomous vehicle license in Nevada. That means the company can now test its autonomous vehicles on the state’s public roads. At ERL, I glimpsed the first hints of our autonomous vehicle future: self-parking.
The garage self-parking demo began with a few hiccups; the Audi refused to enter the garage for the first couple tries, presumably because it didn’t think it had enough space. But eventually it worked, as you can see in the video above. Our demonstrator activated the vehicle’s engine with a smartphone. When the car was snugly in its space, it automatically shut off the engine and locked the doors.
There is no super-fancy technology involved; all the ultrasound sensors guiding the car are already found in Audi vehicles. In a parking garage, the situation is a little different—the garage’s central computer helps guide the vehicle to an open space. Eventually, Audi cars will also use camera systems to assist with guidance.
Back at ERL, I saw demos of piloted parking in an outside lot, where a vehicle easily maneuvered in and out of a tight parking space. When a car drove in front of the vehicle while it was exiting the space (on purpose, of course), an ERL employee simply pressed “pause” in a smartphone app to prevent a collision. In the event of a real emergency, the car can stop itself.
This was not my first time seeing the Volkswagen Group’s autonomous technology. In 2010, I sat inside Junior 3, a robotic Volkswagen Passat, while it parked itself at Stanford’s Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab. At the time, it was surreal; I felt like a ghost was driving me around. During the ERL visit, the technology seemed much more in reach. And in fact, Audi representatives told me that piloted parking will be commercialized in the next few years. Autonomous vehicles could be available by the end of the decade.
The Volkswagen Group and its brands have a long history of working on autonomous vehicles, but other automakers are catching up. Like Audi, Ford is working on traffic jam assist technology that can take over for drivers in heavy traffic. Volvo’s self-driving road trains, expected to be on European roads by 2020, wirelessly link cars on the highway to a lead vehicle, driven by a person, that controls movement.
While it isn’t a car company, Google is working on autonomous vehicles as well. According to Brad Stertz, corporate communications manager at Audi of America, one of the main differences between Audi and Google technology is that Google is developing a kind of autonomous driving “black box” that can go into other cars, while Audi’s system is deeply integrated into each vehicle.
In the coming years, automakers will take baby steps towards producing fully autonomous vehicles, starting with piloted parking technology. By the time self-driving cars hit the road, they won’t seem so sci-fi.
Five By Five - 6 Feb 2012
Aggregation is deep in journalism’s DNA - David Skok via Nieman Journalism Lab — Skok spelunks in old old media — the 1920’s — and confirms that editors have been aggregating materials forever: it’s not some pernicious web innovation. Especially interesting are the observations of Bruce Bliven, the one-time managing editor of The New York Globe and editor of The New Republic, whose thoughts were aggregated by Time magazine from an essay he wrote in The Atlantic Monthly:
“The public,” says Mr. Bliven in effect, “is always asking about Newspaper morals. But equally important with newspaper morals is newspaper intelligence. And both of them are changing drastically, dangerously, because of mechanical progress.”
No Joke: These Guys Created A Machine For Printing Houses On The Moon - Tim Maly via Co.Design — USC professors Behrokh Khoshnevis (Engineering), Anders Carlson (Architecture), Neil Leach (Architecture), and Madhu Thangavelu (Astronautics) mocked up a plan to build a Moon base with robot-controlled 3-D printers, so people wouldn’t have to show up on the lunar surface until all is built, and the coffee is hot.
As We May Think - Vannevar Bush via The Atlantic, 1945 — Perhaps the most prescient piece of all time, As We May Think’s author, Vannevar Bush, envisioned the Memex (memory + index = memex): a hypothetical hypertext system that presaged and influenced the development of the web. Vannevar Bush was the Director of the US Office of Scientific Research and Development, and is no relation to the two America presidents with the same last name.
Zap your brain into the zone: Fast track to pure focus - Sally Adee via New Scientist — New research by Michael Weisend on transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) — sending 9 volts though the brain — leads to much faster learning of motor skills (~ 2.3 times faster), like sharpshooting, as well as the creation of a flow state. This builds on research about the different excitation patterns between the brains of expert and amateur athletes. We can expect much faster training in the future, breaking the 10,000 hour rule. Now a number of DIY tDCS enthusiasts are investigating this on their own, part of a cosmetic neuroscience trend.
Let the Robot Drive: The Autonomous Car of the Future Is Here - Tom Vanderbilt via Wired — Vanderbilt takes rides in Google’s autonomous car and looks at what Mercedes, BMW, VW, and other car makers have in the works, and concludes it’s time to step aside for our robotic overlords, at least as far as driving is concerned. He wonders ‘Imagine the complexity we’ll have when cars drive themselves. Who will be responsible for their operation—the car companies or the drivers? What happens, for example, when a highway patrol officer pulls over a self-driving car? Who gets the ticket?’ Anthony Levandowski, of Google, says ‘The fact you are still driving is a bug, not a feature.’
China Right behind Google with Autonomous Car
Google, no longer, holds the title of being the only one to bring forward autonomous cars. Researchers, at the National University of Defense Technology in China, recently unveiled a driverless car that can very well manage to compete with Google.
With an agreement with China’s First Auto Works, the researchers armed a Hongqi HQ3 sedan with cameras, sensors and a computer, allowing it to power on, move through traffic and switch off on its own. The driverless car completed a 154 mile drive on a busy freeway, from Changsha-the Hunan capital to Wuhan-the capital of the Hubei province, in just 3 hours and 20 minutes.
This autonomous vehicle does not employ the GPS technology to navigate its way. Instead, it depends on the cameras and sensors, installed to get an idea of the traffic situation, speed limits and change lanes. The computer, built into it, is capable of taking its decisions in just 40 milliseconds, as compared to a human driver who takes nearly 500 milliseconds; therefore, the HQ3 can react quickly to challenging traffic situations.
The speed of the car was set at 68 mph, by the researchers, that was just enough to overtake around 67 other cars present on the freeway and still give it the room needed to map out its destination. On the way, the HQ3 successfully managed to find its way through extreme weather conditions, like fog and thunderstorm along with vague lane markings.
Although, the HQ3 cannot as yet manage its way at night, something which Google’s autonomous cars have managed to do. Besides, the track record for the HQ3 is not as great as the Priuses of Google-recorded more than 140,000 miles, with just two small accidents.
Just recently, Google managed to influence the Nevada state legislature to pass laws that allow the use of driverless cars. However, there are still more car makers, interested in challenging Google, in this regard. Audi signed up, with Stanford University researchers, to develop an autonomous Audi TT, finding its way around Pikes Peak whereas the researchers, at the University of Parma, made a journey from Italy to China in a robotic van.
Living in an Electric Box (Return of the Nomad)
I was reading Jack Uldrich’s blog post about unexpected surprises from self driven automobiles and suddenly started envisioning an excitingly possible future world. I want to expand on these unexpected surprises because I think you can envision lives of people changing radically… in interesting ways. Let me take and show you a tantalizing glimpse of that new world…
Imagine automobiles have the ability to drive themselves anywhere anytime without human intervention - it changes everything. Why? Because suddenly you can eat, sleep, work, be entertained - all whilst automatically being transported anywhere you want to go. Think about the potential… if you lived in an electric box, with wheels.
You might say that this is just a camper van. Yes and no. Yes you live on wheels. The size of the vehicle depends on your needs. A single person needs less space than say a family of 4. No - because in a world of autonomous driven vehicles, nobody in the transport box needs to be paying attention to the roads - the computer will do that for you. This makes a world of difference.
This is a camper van on steroids!
In this world, whilst you are sleeping, your electric box calculates your location and estimates that you have to be at work in 2 hours. You are blissfully in dreamland dreaming about unicorns, your vehicle motor starts and you are on your way to work. 20 minutes before you get to your destination, your inboard intelligent computer system decides its time to wake you up and turns the shower heating on. You wake up to the tune of your favourite music “Living in a Box”.
As you get into your nice warm shower, your HAL type computer system remembers that you like to have a cup of tea and bagel for breakfast. It sets in motion the automatic robotic cook. As you finish your breakfast, your electric box pulls into the car park of the office where you have a meeting. You are fully refreshed, bathed and fed - you are ready for your day. Zero commute time. Multi-tasking on acid!
Suppose you don’t work in a fixed office space, instead you’re a modern worker. Your electric box will be kitted out with wall to wall digital screens - which enable to you bring up your work online and telepresence video conference for your profession.
Say your electric box is running out of juice. A quick side note: this is the future, I’m assuming your car is electric. Whatever you are doing, you don’t really care. Your home will discretely alert you that it is going for a quick refuel at the nearest charging point. By the way, this will most likely be a free top up because the supercharger is run on sunlight (see old post!). If it knows you have a long trip the next day, it can even fuel up for the journey whilst you are sleeping. It can plan ahead and do what it needs to do. All by itself… You are left to get on with your own stuff.
You’re thinking probably, well if you are just staying in your electric box over night or during the day - you’re having a lazy day in bed, where you do stop? In this distant future, physical infrastructure will have to be built to accommodate the changing needs of society. If people live in these portable devices and others who live in fixed abodes work from home (enabled by the net) there is less need for physical office real estate. So most likely this unused space will be dug up and have multi-story electric box parking spaces. Perhaps you just rent as you go from city to city.
Imagine your electric box checks the weather forecast and knows it’s going to be sunny and traffic conditions are good… then it also knows you will take your lunch at 1.30pm today. Just as it is time to have your dinner it pulls up to the coast… You can now have your lunch on the beach… welcome to the future… anything is possible in the electric box! :)