Cars – They Don’t Make ’em Like They Used To

We just got our first personalized license plate, well my husband did, and asked me after the fact if it was okay. “LASTGAS”. As in this will probably be our last gas-powered car. I don’t necessarily think that in 5 years, roughly when we’re in the market again, electric powered cars will have over-taken the market…but there will certainly be a lot more of them and even more advances made.

Between us, my husband is the one that’s down right giddy over electric cars (rather the Tesla in particular) and perhaps I could be considered more of a fast follower. I’m all for less dependence on foreign oil and treating the environment better. I also don’t think that the needed charging infrastructure is going to be a problem – it’s going to happen. This is just a simple anecdote, but the new Target store by our house has at least 20 parking spots with charging stations, and oh what a nice excuse that would be to shop more than usual.

I should also mention here that we have Google’s driver-less cars on the horizon. It was just a few years ago when I first heard about their side project, and I can clearly remember how skeptical I was, almost incredulous. No way would Americans give up their God-given right to drive. I mean our obsession with how a car makes us “look” had to have begun just a few moments after the Model T went into production. Cars, for the vast majority of people, have never been about getting to from point A to point B. We choose them to represent our personalities or the persona we want to be. Sporty? Get a Subaru Outback or Toyota 4-Runner. Stylish? BMW. SUV on a budget? Get a Cherokee. Got lots of kids? How about the Honda Odyssey. Even if you don’t want a showy car, and you’re the sensible I-don’t-really-care-about-cars type, there is a car for that. (The Camry or Corolla right?)

So what will it say about the state of America when that’s gone, when getting inside a car and shutting the door is now ONLY about getting to Point B? We will have come a long way baby. But I’m not incredulous anymore. I am definitely starting to see how it could happen. I’ve seen so many different industry disruptions happen in the last 10 years than any point of my life and I think that momentum is only going to continue. This may sound like a trivial reason, but our smartphones might be why we all finally accept driver-less cars. How many of you text and drive? I hate it but I’m raising my hand right now. I’m mean we’re all a bunch of multi-tasking maniacs. If there’s any idle moment, like the grocery store line, our mind kicks into gear and says “Oh did that guy ever email me back about so-and-so?” “I better check Facebook to see if Trish had her baby yet!”.

We will no longer feel guilty about that! We can no longer cause road accidents because of that. The reason I love my new commute, which is by ferry, is because my hands are not on a steering wheel – I can do whatever I want…text, read email, read a book, call Mom. One day all that can happen in our personal cars!

Also, I just went on vacation. Driving on vacation sucks because you’re so reliant on a map. Missing a turn becomes a 10 minute mistake. I would have LOVED a driver-less car on vacation, guided by an intelligent mapping system void of emotions and bad short term memory.

When cars become less about your identity and more about getting to Point B, we might also be more open to carpooling. Driver-less cars will be these super computers with wheels, so it’s easy to imagine a Carpool app on your phone (similar to Uber) that picks you up first and then the perfect 1 or 2 others looking to go to the same area. You don’t even need to own the driver-less car, it could be a Zipcar picking everybody up.

One last thought that hit me while writing this – our kids will never own a gas powered car. And it’s even possible they’ll never get a drivers license or drive cars. Today our children don’t recognize a dial tone, in fact my four year old just overheard me say I needed to make a phone call and she asked “What’s a phone call?” I guess FaceTime is more her speed. Our two year old frustratingly tried to pinch and zoom the viewport of our SLR camera. Times are a changin’. And even if I might be incredulous at first, I always come around.

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