Captain's Log

Cheesy Sci Fi Movie, Self Driving Cars, And New Opportunities

Last week I was sitting in an aircraft hangar with Jeff White who runs the Pacific Coast Flyers flying club here in Carlsbad California. He is a .NET software developer, a great flight instructor, club manager and an expert in all things aviation related. Think of him as a Southern California cool dude, who owns more airplanes than you own fountain pens. Jeff had finished a flight with a student and I was about to go out and fly with him. His student, as it turned out, was also a software engineer. Specializing in Artificial Intelligence. Working for a top secret company in San Diego on a top secret project.

During their flight debrief, of all the things they could bring up, they brought up the subject of a recent SciFi movie called Jupiter Rising. Jeff told his student that this was the cheesiest SciFi movie he had ever seen. The other guy said he enjoyed it. This piqued my curiosity.

Next day, I took my beautiful wife to the movie. The movie plot is somewhat a rehash on The Matrix. Something to do with an alien race farming humans like animals so that they could “harvest” them to prolong their own lives.

Before I digress out of range, let me get back to the self driving cars. But there is a connection coming up.

Self Driving cars are a big trending topic these days. You will continue to read more and more headlines about them in the next few years. Here are some interesting developments.

Google is working on its own self driving car. It will be autonomous in all driving conditions. Chris Urmson, the head of self driving cars at google was quoted saying, “It sounds quaint, I guess, but my team’s mission is to improve people’s lives by transforming mobility.” The google self drive car will not have a steering wheel.

Apple is reportedly working on a project Titan. They are recruiting vehicle experts at a secret lab outside Cupertino. Some people believe that they are working on the Apple Car.

A recent news headline suggests that Sony is also getting in the game. They want in because they make sensors and it is the sensors that make the autonomous in an autonomous car possible.

Something interesting is going on. Google is getting into this game, Apple is getting into this game, Sony is getting in, Tesla is halfway into it already, Mercedes Benz will have a fully autonomous car by 2020. Why is everyone so interested? I can assure you that its not about selling cars or making your commute meaningful. Its about something much bigger than that.

There are 250 Million registered vehicles in the United States alone. Average commute time in America is: 25.4 minutes. My personal guess is that average commute time in big metropolitan cities today is 45 minutes each way. With self driving cars, people will not mind driving 1 hour each way to their place of work.

Imagine yourself owning a self driving car. You are commuting two hours each day. There is no steering wheel. There is an Android tablet or a built-in iPad instead. You have an ultra high speed connection. You are busy working, checking emails, shopping, searching. You know getting harvested in ways you did not imagine.

The car will become the new storefront for new kinds of apps and utilities. Google and Apple will open up their vehicles to developers like you and me. We’ll come up “mobile” apps for all kinds of people moving at 75 miles per hour. The harvest will go on. The lives of big companies will prolong…and even end up improving the lives of ordinary commuters.

Until then…

Mark Mian