The ideas-unconstrained-by-reality people are busy imagining the future in a world of self-driving cars. After all, the technicians need to know what to build, and the technology is moving forward at an amazing clip.
People at the design firm IDEO came up with three possible expressions of autonomous car technology.
Pretty impressive, and they even gave one of the vehicles a friendly-sounding name.
But why not name them all?
And while you’re at it, leave a few brain cells unoccupied to do the important work of imagining the worst that could happen.
Notion #1 is Marge, a family car that looks at your e-mail and your calendar and already knows where you want to go when you get into it.
How could this fail? A car with access to your e-mail might know where you ought to go and where you’re supposed to be, but one that looks at your Internet browsing history may fully understand where you’d rather be instead. When you get in your autonomous car you might not know who’s driving – is it your Id or your Super-Ego?
I guess we’ll find out when we get there.
Notion #2 is Cody, a delivery truck that is a nimble, see-through tube reminiscent of the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile, except it knows where you are and what you want. Combined with Amazon’s purchase-prediction software, these babies may be orbiting your neighborhood already stocked with what the algorithm says you are going to order.
How could this fail? Salespeople will ruin this for everybody by flooding neighborhoods with delivery vehicles that are cruising advertisements for the stuff inside. Imagine the narrow snowy streets of December clogged with gift-laden vehicles, each one jockeying to catch your eye.
Notion #3 is Dante’, a roving work station that is your portable office. Let it take you and your co-workers anywhere – for inspiration or collaboration.
How could this fail? Fights over the beach vs. the scenic overlook vs. the blank downtown brickscape where I can concentrate on this damn report I have to finish! Could we turn the office around so I can have the sun coming in on MY side for once? Do we really have to co-work with them in OUR parking lot today? Why don’t they ever invite us over to their place? Is there something wrong with it?
So many idea clouds, so many gun-metal gray linings. And there are so many notions the IDEO people didn’t suggest …
Notion #4 – is Sherlock, an autonomous chase vehicle that will follow you on that blind date you dread, and provide you with a quick getaway if it’s as awful as you fear it will be.
How could this fail? Hey, it looks like someone is following us. Hang on! My last girlfriend said I’m almost good enough to be a Hollywood stunt driver!
Notion #5 – is Budge, a Parking Space Holder. If we’re going to the Ordway Saturday night I’ll send Budge over there around 4pm to orbit Rice Park looking for one of those handy metered street parking spots to open up when the matinee crowd leaves. Twenty minutes before the curtain rises we’ll head over there in the second car (“Diva”) to trade places and claim our spot while Budge ambles home.
Notion #6 – is Flash Fleet, not a single autonomous car but rather a bit of software developed by highway hackers to commandeer large numbers of autonomous vehicles to “flood the zone”, creating targeted slowdowns and traffic jams at pre-arranged times in carefully selected places. The goal – anarchy.
How could this fail? Actually, this one is a no-brainer. It’s definitely going to happen, and it will be a terrific headache.
What else could happen?