Watch your step: we are now entering the era of the Transportation Cloud. Cloud systems, “machines” that are made available by widely distributed resources on thousands of servers in real time, are disrupting not just IT but every industry in the world economy. Business analysis company IDC puts the amount spent on the cloud last year at $100 billion.
“Just as ‘the cloud’ has disrupted and revolutionized business computing, communications and media consumption,” reports sustainability blog Planning for Reality (PFR), “so the coming ‘transportation cloud’ will have similar radical impacts on the world around us.
PFR looks toward the transition from a road filled with many people at varying degrees of emotional health swerving around the road in independent death-pods to a fully connected and integrated transportation model that utilizes the principles of ride-sharing, car-pooling, and self-driving.
Just Click the Button
Today, when you need to drive somewhere, it can get complicated. First, you have to be prepared, with about three-quarters of your income going to making payments on your car and maintaining it. You also need to make sure it has fuel. Along these lines, always keep water and a tire jack in your car. If you don’t know where you are going, you must either have a hard-copy map or direct yourself with a routing application. If the map is on your phone, make sure your phone does not die. Plus, stay focused on the road – you can kill someone, and they can kill you.
Does any of this sound annoying, or just stupid?
The Transportation Cloud, a rough term for cloud-hosted technologies integrated to facilitate self-driving, will allow you to click a button in an app and get a self-driving car at your doorstep. To save resources, the car could already have people inside it who are headed in the same direction.
Today the average number of people inside a commuting vehicle is 1.13, says PFR, but with the Transportation Cloud, that figure could rise substantially, relieving rush-hour traffic and allowing cars to move around each other more efficiently.
Let’s face it: times change. People are texting when they drive, hovering one emoticon away from vehicular homicide. The fact is, just like we might today look at CDs or DVDs as a strange way to fill up shelves, tomorrow we could well consider cars or trucks a strange way to fill up a garage.
Just as vinyl records are still around, driving will not completely disappear. Some people will still want immediate access to a thrill-ride; others will be understandably creeped out by the brain scan they receive every time they step inside the government-controlled robot car; and still others will collect antique 2004 Honda Civics and need to take them for periodic test-drives.
The Transportation Cloud could have first-class and coach options, suggests PFR: “Executives may use an app to summon a personal Mercedes or Tesla, while the rest of us bundle into the latest Toyota Prius with some fellow travelers going the same direction.”
Give Me a Timeline
The reason people say that this technology will become commonplace is that it’s already been invented.
Late last year, Uber – which recently earned the ignoble distinction of “most ethically challenged business in Silicon Valley” – opened up a new service called Uber Pool. If you dive into the pool, you could end up paying half the normal rate, as long as you don’t break your neck because Uber forgot to fill it with water. Although Uber’s business practices seem sketchy, they have successfully created a system to efficiently route taxis to multiple pickup addresses with similar endpoints.
PFR adds that the data within a popular mobile app, Google Waze, could be integrated into the Transportation Cloud as well, giving all the road-bots access to traffic jam data and redirecting cars for optimal trip time, moment-by-moment.
All by Themselves
For the past two and a half years, Google experimental projects developer Anthony Levandowski has been getting to and from the company’s Mountain View headquarters from Berkeley in a driverless Lexus, cruising confidently on Interstate 880 at precisely the speed limit.
Google and Lexus are not the only companies in the game, though. Both Mercedes and Audi revealed their own driverless cars at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, with the former stealing the thunder by making its own way to the Las Vegas event.
This may all seem very sudden. We still have to be cautious so that we all remain safe on the road and don’t end up in a million-car pileup sponsored by Al Qaeda. It won’t be long, though, says PFR: “While the technology may be here already, legislation still has to catch up, but there’s now sufficient market pressure that the dam will surely burst soon.”
Jump in My Car
It turns out that David “The Hoff” Hasselhoff was right all along when he insinuated that there’s always room for one more passenger in his instant classic “Jump in My Car.” Although not all of us may want to commute in clown cars, sustainability, efficiency, and cost of getting across town could all see huge gains with the Transportation Cloud.
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By Kent Roberts