Driverless cars! Imagine being able to get in the car going to work, travel, whatever, and be able to do something else along the way? Yes, I know that some people already do this on a bus or train, but those don’t go directly to your house and then precisely to your end destination. A car that drives itself will start at your house and take you wherever you want. If I want to go see my dad, I could hop in the car and catch a nap along the three hour ride. Or surf the web, or watch a video, etc. Because computers have much better reaction times than humans, it will be possible to have many more cars on the road at once and traffic will be much more efficient. The vast majority of accidents occur due to driver error, automated cars will be able to eliminate a lot of those problems.
The technology is already here and is being used. There are a few problems though. First, computerized directions have to get much better before I will trust it. How many times have we been steered wrong by GPS directions? A bigger issue is liability. I am perfectly willing to believe that most accidents are caused by human error and that almost all of those could be avoided by automated cars either through avoiding dangerous driving and/or much better reactions. There will still be accidents though, who will be liable when something happens? While the frequency of accidents may go down, the more litigious of us out there may see bigger targets when something goes wrong. Will the manufacturers be willing to take on that kind of risk? How will the laws have to be rewritten to accommodate driverless cars?
Man, overnight trips would be so much easier and nicer like this. Imagine the boosts to autonomy people with disabilities could have! Blind people wouldn’t have to be reliant on public transport or friends and family. Speaking of public transport, can you imagine how that would change with this type of technology? The possibilities boggle the mind… Please oh please let this start coming soon!
Another bit of technology that is super exciting is the possibility of using light as a means of transmitting data. Radio waves are handy, but the spectrum is crowded and congestion is getting worse. Some very clever people have come up with a way of modulating visible light so that it can be used for all sorts of networking purposes. Here’s the basic idea…. If you replace regular light bulbs and fluorescents with LED lamps, you can switch the light on and off millions of times a second. That’s far faster than the human eye and brain can cope with so it would look like continuos light to us. That switching on and off would create ones and zeros, and then BAM! we have digital communication. Potentially any and all light sources could be transformed into networking spots. All of the lights in your house, all street lamps, headlights and tail lights (see the driverless cars above), absolutely any place that is illuminated could take advantage of this. Check out this talk that explains it:
There are still a lot of questions surrounding this. How do you turn it into a two way communication, what about the backhaul issues, how would you wire your house/office for this etc. The good news is that this technology is all sorted out. There are no technical limitations in the way of this being used. People are talking about a 2012 introduction of this sort of technology. Here’s another great thing, even if we discount the awesomeness of this wireless technology, can you imagine the efficiency gains if a significant number of lightbulbs are switched over the LEDs? There are all sorts of amazing possibilities with this, and who knows what other sorts of uses will be thought of once essentially free, high speed connections are available in many places.
The future is looking good, and close!