From smart phones to smart cars, the wheels in the sky keep on turning.
The 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas had many products on display,with various smart car technology announcements being among the crowd. While it could be said that some of the historically items shown at CES over the years never reach mass market appeal, the smart car concept is definitely gaining traction and driver-less cars are not that far away as one might think.
Its hard to imagine that less than 10 years ago, the majority of the worlds cell phone users were walking around with either a Captain Kirk style flip phone (remember the Motorola Razr?), or a BlackBerry (if you were really fancy). Little did we know that in 2007 Steve Jobs was going to convince the world that, believe it or not, everyone really wanted a $600 smartphone in their pocket. It didn't matter that the prototype was barely functional, that it couldn't reliably play an entire music or video clip without crashing, that they hard coded the phone to always show 5 bars of signal. Those were engineering problems which would be solved later, the world needed to see the iPhone and they needed to see it now. Steve Ballmer (the CEO of Microsoft at the time) gave the iPhone "no chance" of gaining significant market share. Research In Motion's, the company responsible for BlackBerry also failed to see the iPhone as a threat. Meanwhile Apple fixed the engineering issues, Google jumped in with the Android smartphone, and so began the smartphone revolution.
Fast forward to 2015, IDC reports the Android is the dominant leader with more then 82% market share, iOS runs a distant second place with just under 14%, Microsoft struggles to maintain a 2.6% market share, followed by BlackBerry with 0.3%. With the benefit of hindsight, its easy to label Steve Jobs as a visionary, Google as a group of forward thinkers, and those in charge of BlackBerry and Microsoft's mobile presence... well you fill in the blank.
With so many people around the world carrying around a smartphone in their pocket, some with as much computing power as a spaceship, the entrepreneurs were sure to follow. Just last year, Uber was reported to have more drivers in New York City then yellow taxis. In its home town, its revenues were reported as more than 3 times larger then the entire San Francisco taxi market, and growing. Of course Uber also has its own problems but a good portion of those are due to misbehaving drivers or passengers, what some might call the human element.
Apple has already dipped its toes into the automotive industry with its CarPlay product, and the rumor mill is swarming about the possibility of an Apple Car. Microsoft is reportedly not interested in entering the smart car market quite so directly, they instead are looking at smart cars as another type of device to connect to their cloud services. Perhaps a Microsoft powered smart car would crash too much due to malware or require too many restarts? (insert laugh track here) Believe it or not, BlackBerry (remember them?) is reportedly trying to get into the smart car game as well. Automakers such as Mercedes, BMW, and Tesla are all in various stages of releasing cars with self driving features. Google has already performed testing with self-driving vehicles carrying a human passenger capable of taking over if needed. A few of Google's journeys did result in a small number of minor traffic accidents, most of which were attributed to some form of human error.
While the concept of a driver-less car may induce thoughts of computers taking over another part of our daily lives ("I'm sorry Dave, I cant do that"), its not hard to see how a product like this could change the way we live and work in the future The morning commute could potentially be spent answering emails, and the drive home could be spent watching the latest show on Netflix while your driver less car navigates you home through rush hour traffic. Its 2016 and we don't quite have the flying car promised by Marty McFly and George Jetson, but technology marches ever onward and in a few years you just might find that the Uber car pulling into in your driveway has nobody in the drivers seat.