SMART IS AS SMART DOES
SMARTNESS. It’s all around us these days, from TVs and cars to water bottles that remind you when to drink. Since I’m sure you were wondering: yes, the picture above is genuine and that water bottle really does exist.
As the Internet of Things grabs hold, our first instinct is to dive straight in. Humankind seems somehow less fulfilling without the ability to see, from 12 000 kilometres away, that the double cream plain yoghurt in the fridge is about to hit its Best By date. It’s a question we explore in this month’s cover story: do we control this stuff, o... show Morer does it control us?
Speaking of which, control over another significant part of life – the motor vehicle – may be something that future generations read about in the history books. Someday soon, we’re going to be wafting around our cities in cars that drive themselves, or maybe fly themselves.
Which was the furthest thing from my mind while driving up a mountain the other day. To be honest, I was more interested in what the view of the sunset would be like from the top. To be really, really honest, after a long hot day, there was a further incentive in the form of a whispered suggestion of sundowners at the top. It was a pretty easy trail anyway and our double cab had practically every driver aid known to humanity. Even without the sundowners the view was magnificent, with the Maluti Mountains just visible in the haze, or so I’m told.
Most of the time, when we need to get from A to B, getting to destination B – preferably quickly – is the priority. What we do in between is, hopefully, as little as possible. This is the ideal world of autonomous driving and this will one day be our world.
And yet… in a few weeks’ time, with what I suspect will be a hint of nervous anticipation, I’ll press the starter button of a car that cranks out fully 51 kilowatts* more than the already scarily powerful model it’s based on. (For the record, I’ll be doing the driving myself.) The fact that this car even exists is a hint that there may be people out there who actually – gasp – derive some kind of pleasure from controlling the thing themselves.
In 10, 20 years’ time, will we still be able to exercise that control? Will we be able to drive to the top of the mountain just because we feel like it, and when we feel like it? It’s possible that, instead, Central Control will allocate us slots to join a swarm, a fleet, a sea of driverless vehicles on roads that are already clogged.
In this world, will car manufacturers, instead of selling sheet metal, sell mobility packages, like airtime? DriveMore time for cheap off-peak travel and TopUpTrip for when your drivetime runs out en route?
If technology trends are an accurate reflection of where we’re headed, this is no fairytale.
A fairytale is when you need to get to a gala ball at the palace and you’re stuck for transport. Luckily, so the story goes, Cinderella had a fairy godmother whose skills included the ability to turn a pair of mice and a pumpkin into a kind of early Uber Black. As we know, Cinderella was so busy setting the dancefloor on fire at the ball that she completely forgot fairy godmother’s curfew kicked in at midnight, raising the prospect of a return trip home in a pumpkin, minus one glass slipper.
Thanks to future multi-modal mobility, tomorrow’s Cinderella won’t have that problem. All she will need to do is send a Please Fetch Me to ensure that things end happily ever after. show less