Have you seen all the articles in the press about the dangers posed by nitrogen oxides and the other nasty particles belched out daily by all those diesel cars that we bought because the government of the day encouraged us to do so, in the erroneous belief that diesels were more green than their petrol-powered alternatives? These particles are blamed for thousands of premature deaths, to the extent that house prices are now being affected by proximity to major roads.
You can hardly have failed to see this reported in the media, and if you are one of the millions who own a diesel car you would be forgiven for wondering if its value is going to collapse. Clearly, there is a problem.
One obvious solution is for everyone to drive electric vehicles. Yet, if like me you have examined the cost of one of these, you’ll find that they are not particularly cheap. However, I came across another article recently in the Telegraph that suggests that not only do we not have too long to wait before they become affordable, but we are also on the cusp of a transport revolution that will have an enormous impact on the way we conduct our lives.
Professor Tony Seba of Stanford has published a paper that looks not too far into the future and forecasts that by 2025 we’ll have virtually no petrol/diesel vehicles and everyone will get about in cars that drive themselves, run for 1M miles (yes, one million miles) and cost next to nothing to run. Unlike the complicated vehicles churned out by the global giants of the motor industry, these new cars don’t’ require much looking after. As the Telegraph article explains, “The Tesla S has 18 moving parts, one hundred times fewer than a combustion engine car. Maintenance is essentially zero. That is why Tesla is offering infinite-mile warranties.”
Even if he’s out by a few years, if you’ll excuse the pun, the direction of travel is clear. In my experience, when these sort of articles appear in the mainstream media that means that the boffins already know how to make this happen.
Now you might be wondering why I’m writing about cars in a blog on an IT site. The answer is that as the Telegraph explains, “The next generation of cars will be “computers on wheels”. Google, Apple, and Foxconn have the disruptive edge, and are going in for the kill. Silicon Valley is where the auto action is, not Detroit, Wolfsburg, or Toyota City.”
In other words, it’s the tech industries that are going to drive this change. The opportunities here are massive. Many of them are already being seized, but for those just graduating, or even those learning to code at school, here is yet another reason why you made the right career choice.
Finally, there is another reason for writing this, and it’s not to do with technology, it’s to do with politics. You may have noticed there is an election coming up. You may also have noticed that away from all the usual key topics for debate (tax, the NHS, the economy, defence, etc.), not many of the politicians are talking about the major economic changes that will take place over the next five years. Bearing in mind that Prof Seba is predicting these changes to the transport industry will have largely taken place in only eight years, it is imperative (even if it’s not the kind of ‘sexy’ political stuff that the media prefers) that our politicians are not just thinking but actively planning for this new world. For a start, given that demand for fossil fuels will plummet, and the associated tax revenues with them (what price a barrel of oil in the mid 2020s?), not to mention the impact on the geopolitical world (Russia and the Middle East for a start), all that money we’re being promised from the politicians’ magic money tax trees is likely to need a bit of a top-up. This, with the associated debate around the vital importance of technology in driving the future success of our economy (and paying for vital public services), is what I’d like to see at least some of our politicians address. I’m not holding my breath…
Gareth Biggerstaff, MD, Be-IT Resourcing