miércoles, 22 de octubre de 2014

The #car of the future: A collection of #digital disruptions


Since Henry Ford started the mass-production of his T-model, the car has been the one of the symbols of progress and development. Both, individuals and countries has used the car as a sign of its status. The individuals buy the more expensive car they can in order to show its position in the social ladder. The number of cars of a country has been a traditional indicator of its richness. Therefore, any changes in the features and production of cars drawn the attention of all of us. The digital era is bringing us a whole bunch of them, so we can be sure that in less than a decade cars will not be as we know today.

The cornerstone of the digital car is connectivity. In the same way that Internet access has changed our leisure and work, the crossroad of cars and connectivity is the cornerstone for changing our relationship with the external world while driving. To begin with, it has the potential to change the full relationship of the car with its surroundings if we add a pinch of artificial intelligence. Thanks to V2V protocols (Vehicle-to-Vehicle), the cars could speak with each other and exchange information that makes safer the driving experience. The car awareness of its surrounding could be dramatically expanded with another family of protocols, V2I (Vehicle-to-Infrastructure) that paves the way for a communication of the car with the road infrastructure. It is estimated that V2V and V2I could help to cut by 79% the number of road accidents, however maybe you are getting nervous with all that chatting of your car and you would like to know in real time what the cars talk about with the neighbourhood. Don´t worry, your windscreen or google glasses can inform you about it converting driving in an augmented reality experience.

But perhaps the feature of digital cars has drawn the bigger size of attention in the last months are self-driving cars. First, the Google experiments adding equipment for self-driving in conventional cars. Afterwards, the Google car without wheels and pedals. Even the already avalaible self-parking cars. There are signals of how redundant the human beings could be in the future as drivers. But they are also the door towards a more efficient public transport and logistics based on self-driving cars shared in a Uber-alike manner. And this is not only a disruption in our daily life, it is also a disruption in car manufacturing. The more we will be able to share cars, the less production of cars is needed.

If the impact of self-driving cars in car manufacturing industry is not obvious, what is certain is that 3D printing will take its toll in this sector. Of course, it will begin by printing only spare parts, but printing the whole car is not a far future. It is a reality. A year ago, some prototypes were presented in several events. This year a proof of concept of printing a car in 44 hours has been performed and there are pieces of news about people driving a 3D printed car. This mean a future of a radical decentralisation of car manufacturing. The future that Rifkin has envisioned in his last book.

The question is if after all these digital disruptions the cars will still be cars.

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