USA Today just ran a story about a trial run in Colorado of a driverless truck delivering a load of beer from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, a journey of about 120 miles. There was a human driver on board, but he spent most of the trip watching from the truck’s sleeping berth.
The truck featured driverless technology developed by Otto, which was recently acquired by Uber for $670 million. (No doubt Uber execs spend their nights dreaming of Uber cabs without drivers – and, of course, without driver salaries.)
I remember a couple of years ago when I first started following the progress of driverless cars. Back then, the prediction was that the technology was fifteen to twenty years away from implementation. Since then the timeframe has shrunk like a cheap suit. Just the other day, Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla Cars, promised that by 2018, a Tesla would drive completely unaccompanied from one American coast to the other using what Musk calls the most advanced driverless technology in the world.
It’s getting clear that the hurdles are no longer with the technology, which is already good, and will continue to get even better. The big hurdles now are administrative – how do we write the rulebook for driverless vehicles when we don’t even know what the biggest problems – including vehicle insurance – will look like.
But make no mistake. The cost savings and productivity benefits of driverless vehicles look like they will far outweigh any challenges. In the end in our world, money trumps most things, and it will here too.
Do you mind if I give your car a call to go pick up my pizza for me?