Are These the Self-Driving Cars of the Future?

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The self-driving car is still a little way off hitting the mainstream, but when it does it could change the way we travel around our cities. Certainly design consultancy IDEO thinks so, if these concepts are anything to go by.


As part of a future-gazing project to investigate automobility in the coming decades, IDEO has developed a series of concepts. It reckons we'll see three waves of transport innovation: cars with autonomy packs that allow us to relinquish control some of the time; fleets of autonomous delivery vehicles that mean items ship to us more easily than ever; and finally work pods, which allow us to get to places all over the city without ever leaving an office environment. Here's a run-down of their thinking.

Autonomous Cars

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"As we move from struggling with today's inefficient relationship between cars and infrastructure to one empowered by automobility, new capacities and better use of our existing resources will emerge. Daily commutes will improve in ways that allow us to accomplish so much more, making the slow seem fast. "

Self-Driving Delivery Trucks

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"As we look ahead, we see self-driving delivery trucks—we call them 21st-Century mules—delivering everything from your new jeans to a hot lunch, almost instantly. After receiving notification that "Cody" has arrived, you'll simply walk to the curb, do a biometric scan, and receive your package. No tips required."

The Office on Wheels

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"As confidence grows in autonomous ways of delivering goods and autonomous driving becomes more mainstream, a third stage of automobility will come into existence. It will involve inverse commutes, where working spaces come closer to where people live instead of commuters heading to pre-determined workplaces."


IDEO certainly thinks these ideas seems plausible. Would you like the future of city transport to look like this? [IDEO via Web Urbanist]


Joel Johnson

There's a lot of pooh-poohing in this thread, but I think IDEO is more right than they are wrong.

With electric vehicles, most of the mechanicals are in the sled underneath. There's no reason there needs to be much above the bottom of the frame. (Safety standards will be the main issue here. Will everyone still have to wear seat belts?)

I was just talking to Travis (from Jalopnik) the other day about my dream retirement vehicle: an autonomous RV that will drive through the night to a new campsite—preferably with a scenic vista—leaving me on a permanent, self-charging road trip.

There's no reason that idea couldn't also address issues with city living, too. Perhaps there's a two-piece unit, with the main cabin living area and a small city runabout. Wake up in the morning in your rented parking lot space somewhere on Long Island, hop into the bathroom/runabout while you prep for work, step out of the bathroom in front of your office. After-work drinks? Just tell your personal Uber to pick you up on the corner, then sleep peacefully next to the toilet while it drives you back to your trailer park.

Small, modular, mobile living spaces seem very cool to me. Why get stuck buying apartments or homes? Locomotion, locomotion, locomotion.