If there is one sure thing in our rapidly evolving world it is the fact that people will require some form of transportation. All things considered, the transportation industry has grown more in the last one and one quarter century that in all of human history combined. However, the automobile of today is still in its infancy with its operator controlled steering mechanisms and mechanically operated fuel and brake controls. The user interface alone is enough to show that the world’s vehicles must expand and adapt in order to meet the demands of the billions of drivers that will soon be on the highways of the world.
Whether people want to admit it or not, the future of the car is in automation. This type of control will require huge traffic analyzing computers and enough artificial intelligence to quickly select alternative routes when the original course suddenly gets overly congested or hazardous. Of course, all of this will also require a tremendous amount of trust on the part of the people using the system. This means that we will need to know that the computer systems we use to route global traffic can handle the job efficiently and whether the hardware and software will be robust enough to carry such a large load.
Surprisingly, this system is not so far away as some people think. Drivers already use global positioning systems to pinpoint where they are on the planet. New cars are quickly becoming Internet friendly with easy access to graphically accurate maps and GPS routing that practically guarantees arriving at your destination. Plus, the next step is already under development with companies like Google developing self controlled vehicles for future transportation needs. On the flip side of this, automotive makers are building modern eco-friendly vehicles with ever growing numbers of computers and surveillance equipment that cover all kinds of safety concerns.
Today’s limited visualization systems will evolve into tomorrows enhanced guidance controls. These powerful safety systems will reduce the amount of road fatalities so dramatically that people will wonder how their ancestors ever managed to drive such dangerous vehicles. Of course other benefits will exist like better planning for long trips and more accurate trip times, but perhaps the best benefit will be the reduced stop and go traffic that is the bane of drivers everywhere.
Of course it goes without saying that our computer systems need to be a little bit more robust before we start putting tens of millions of cars on the road with nothing more than a computer in control. Even our home PCs are much too prone to spyware, errors, and hacking. And this leaves the question of whether or not we will ever be able to put all of our trust into computers if the ability for them to be hacked is present. It seems that no matter how robust the system, it can still be hacked. This is why many people still insist on having some sort of human control over computers. For example, that’s why there is still a pilot in the cockpit of most commercial aircrafts even though many are often flown on autopilot.