Why You’re a Guinea Pig for the Car Industry

Why You’re a Guinea Pig for the Car Industry

Tesla can’t catch a break.

This week a Tesla Model S crashed into a stationary police SUV in California.

It immediately raised fresh doubts about the future of self-driving cars.

Apparently it’s a surprise to the Silicon Valley whizz kids that computers can be just as unpredictable as people on the roads.

Luckily, no one was killed this time.

But a smashed up highway patrol proves yet again that this tech is nowhere near ready for mass adoption.

Losing control of the wheel

You’re entrusting your life to artificial intelligence when you hop into a Tesla Model S.

Not everyone is comfortable doing that.

Sure, machines can calculate and react to things faster than any human could ever hope to. But they also have to learn that a curb is not something you drive up to run over the human standing nearby.

Convincing the AI of this is proving stubbornly difficult.

When you put your life in the hands of someone (or something) else, you better be sure they (it) know what’s going on.

Unfortunately, that’s just not the case with self-driving technology at present.

It stirs up anxiety for me, anyway, even if it may not be entirely warranted.

Of course, that may be through no fault of the technology itself.

Most accidents related with Tesla vehicles were on autopilot.

But here’s the deal: It’s not really an autopilot in the literal sense of the word.

Telsla’s autopilot system still requires a large degree of control on the driver’s part. Elon Musk stresses this time and again.

In fact, the company advises drivers to have both hands on the wheel at all times.

Unfortunately, some have had to learn that lesson the hard way.

But is the technology itself that’s at fault when things go wrong? Or are people to blame?

The answer is most likely somewhere in between.

Buying a family car with training wheels

Two things to keep in mind if you’re thinking about buying a Tesla:

For one, you’re buying a prototype when you fork over the six-figure sum for Model S.

More importantly, you’re voluntarily signing up to be a human guinea pig in the great self-driving experiment.

Yes, there’s no questioning the proof of concept behind self-driving vehicles.

The potential for this tech to revolutionise the world has few limits.

It could make traffic jams a thing of the past.

It could eliminate road accidents altogether.

And it could free up several hours a day for the average commuter to read, watch TV, or catch up on lost sleep.

For motorists, it’s the stuff of dreams.

Unfortunately, it won’t be reality anytime soon.

Of course, that’s to be expected with any new technology.

There was a time early in its development when the internet was derided as a fad. And who can forget dial-up?

Well, those of us that lived through those days also know that internet speeds improved drastically.

Today, few of us can function without the internet. The global economy even depends on it.

Yet getting to this point took several decades. And it’ll be no different with self-driving technology.

The gradual takeover of self-driving cars will take time. But once the teething problems are sorted, adoption picks up and prices fall, self-driving vehicles should revolutionise our roads.

At that point, no one will fear taking their hands off the steering wheel ever again.

The trends of tomorrow today

The ‘rise’ of self-driving tech demonstrates how easily people let the promise of early-stage technology sweep them up.

There are plenty of tech trends taking shape today that will make their mark much sooner.

These technologies often go unnoticed because we don’t immediately recognise their benefits. They creep up slowly, changing the world around us in ways that we fail to appreciate.

Quite often, these technologies don’t have the average high-street consumer in mind.

They’re not iPhones.

But they make iPhones possible.

Our colleague and Daily Reckoning Australia chief editor Callum Newman has closely followed these emerging trends throughout his career.

One of the biggest trends he’s identified is the rise of genomics.

It’s what he calls the ‘New Black Bag’.

It’s a term that harkens back to days when doctors would arrive at patients’ houses with their black bag and stethoscope.

Of course, we’ve come a long way since then. Healthcare and medicine has made huge strides over the past century.

But genomics could be the next great leap.

This science has unearthed some truly remarkable technologies.

We can diagnose respiratory diseases through iPhone apps.

Heart disease from the sound of voices.

Eye disease through neural networks.

Cancers using AI software.

And we can even change DNA sequences.

This last point might be the most important because it foreshadows a world in which the worst diseases and conditions become a thing of the past.

DNA sequencing allows medicine to not only treat, but prevent, illnesses. And it even promises to reverse ageing.

Genomics is already playing a massive role in redefining health the world over.

Even still, it’s just one of many exciting trends coming to the fore over the next few years.


Jim Rickards Signature

Mat Spasic,
For The Daily Reckoning Australia