Where are we headed?

Just like reading a book by its cover, predicting the future is pretty much impossible. We can, however, tell what direction we are headed in.

Autonomous Cars

I think it’s fairly obvious that in the near(ish) future we will be driven around by our cars. Many car brands are, I guess you could say, beta testing these systems. Right now we see cars with adaptive cruise control and systems that will automatically push you back into your lane. Tesla goes as far as a fully autonomous, or self-drive mode, or whatever it is that they call it. While it definitely isn’t a perfect system yet, the driver still needs to be fully aware of what’s going on around them, it’s a step in the right direction. I still think we are 2-3 decades away from seeing most of the roads filled with fully autonomous cars where you punch in an address and it takes you from door to door.

What does this mean for car people?

I don’t view autonomous cars as a bad thing, especially for a daily commute. Sitting in traffic sucks, no matter how much you like your car, so why wouldn’t you want your car to drive for you? We could still be 50 years out from a time when everyone needs to have an autonomous car, so if you want to drive, you’ll be good for quite a while still. Long-term, though, I foresee cars that require a driver going the way of the horse. They won’t be used for transportation, but instead for recreation on tracks.

Electric drive

I used to be quite pessimistic about the future of the electric car and instead believed that an alternative fuel, like hydrogen, would be used. There’s still some issues that I see with the batteries. The first one is that some rare materials are used in them and unless we find a solution for that, then battery powered cars will have some of the same issues that we see with petrol and diesel powered cars today.

Another problem I see is the charge time. With a petrol car, you can get roughly 300 miles per tank of gas, many cars get more than that, but for this example, it will get the job done. Once you’ve driven those 300 miles you pull into a gas station, fill up, and are on your way in 5 minutes. With electric cars, only the best, most expensive ones get more than a 200-mile range, and even with the Tesla Supercharger, it takes 40 minutes to charge the batteries to 80% and 75 minutes to get to 100%. While the range of electric cars will increase over time, I don’t believe that the charge times will get much better. To get faster charge times you need to push more energy into the batteries at a faster rate, which becomes unsafe. Many people don’t realize just how much energy is in batteries these days and how dangerous it can be if things go wrong, something that became very evident with the Samsung Galaxy Notes exploding.

What does this mean for car people?

Car people don’t seem to be overly excited about the electric car, especially when they first came out. That’s probably because for a long time they were all econoboxes that had no emotion to them whatsoever. Today we see cars like the Tesla Model S that is as fast as the fastest hypercar in a straight line, and even the hypercars are using hybrid systems. Electric motors are much more efficient than the internal combustion engine. Plus they produce max torque instantly, which is why they’re able to be pretty fast. I think the aversion that car people have to electric cars is just because it’s new. You can see the same thing in the past when fuel injection was popularized instead of carburetors. Once people get used to it they’ll wonder why they ever used internal combustion engines.

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