James asked: “What do you think is the sleeper technology that will truly affect all of our lives?”
James, there are a lot of technologies that are routinely sold as “the one that will change the world next.” Some, like VR, don’t seem to be gaining a lot of traction, and AR games will probably not be something that will change life as we know it, but AR as an assistance to travelers, factory workers, or even for home repairs may make a little splash.
The one with the most potential to really alter the world as we know it is probably driverless cars. Cars are central to our lives, just look at how much space around you is devoted to pedestrians and how much is devoted to cars, how big your garage is in comparison to your bedroom, or how much of your income goes to car expenses.
Driverless cars have the potential of altering almost everything that the mass production of cars affected 100 years ago.
If your car became basically a train car that you don’t drive yourself, would you be that attached to it? If we’re not that attached to cars then manufacturers may shift their business model towards a type of subscription service, we may give up our garages in favor of local shared driverless car warehouses, and businesses like gas stations, car accessories like radars and rims, and of course truck drivers may become less prevalent in urban areas and become more of a rural sight where there aren’t enough people to justify the setup of a fleet of automated vehicles.
If driverless cars made accidents less common, we may let our computers drive faster than we let humans drive. Cities’ revenue from things like parking tickets, speeding tickets, and just about every other kind of traffic infraction would probably fade away.
Even glossing over the secondary technologies that may develop from driverless cars, like human-less post office or meal deliveries (meals are already being delivered by robots in some hotels and cities as a trial), a lot more of the economy than we usually realize is based on cars being what they are today. Right now someone is selling tires to a consumer that is picking a model they want, as opposed to a model that is assigned to a fleet of cars that all look the same, someone is suing after an accident, someone is giving tourists a tour of a city that a car with a radio could give the way an MP3 player gives museum tours, and emergency room doctors treat car accident victims all day every day.
If driverless cars do take off, and every indication is that they eventually will, a lot of aspects of our lives will change in a drastic way.