Will any of us actually own cars in the future? If Uber and Lyft pave the way, we’ll keep using apps (or chatbots) to summon a car owned by someone else. And if Jaguar Land Rover is right about the future, we won’t own the car but we might one day own just the steering wheel.
In a concept called Jaguar Future-Type, the British car company has offered up a look at what it believes the future may hold. The concept car’s steering wheel could sit in your kitchen or by your bed. You might use it to control your music and set navigation waypoints — this is a steering wheel that looks like a Bluetooth speaker:
When you wanted to go somewhere, you’d “summon” the actual autonomous car, one that might be owned by a group of people or maybe by a fleet service. You’d attach your own steering wheel if you wanted to drive or to enable your own settings.
While the concept is a good stab in the dark in terms of trying to explain what driving will be like in 2040, there are a few flaws in the design scheme.
First, a bit more about the interface itself, called Sayer. (It’s named after Malcolm Sayer, the Jaguar car designer who died in 1970.) As with most concepts, the actual details are a little fuzzy, but the idea is that you could talk to the steering wheel as you would to a voicebot like Siri or Amazon Alexa. You might ask Sayer which parts of the road are ideal for you to drive on yourself (e.g., curvy, nice vistas) and which parts are better left to a robotic driver (e.g., boring, traffic, highways).
Here’s what I like. We will definitely talk to cars. We will summon them, and we probably won’t own them. Why would we? Transportation itself will change dramatically by 2040. We might use an Uber, or a personal car that drives itself, or maybe an autonomous bus. Who knows? Maybe the Hyperloop will replace most common forms of transport.
The part that doesn’t seem likely is owning only a part of the vehicle. We’re already living in the cloud, which means our data and navigation preferences are not tied to a particular device…so why would they be in 2040? I already use Apple CarPlay today, which is tied to my phone but doesn’t really need to be tied to anything. (My navigation preferences are all stored in an app.)
Also, my theory about voice interfaces is that they will become incredibly prevalent. We won’t talk to a phone or a speaker. We’ll talk to Alexa everywhere. Bots will be so ubiquitous that we will be able to talk to them in an office, the kitchen, and the living room. Someday, a new home will be constructed with Alexa (or some other bot) activated throughout every room. We won’t even know or care where these bots are physically loaded onto a hardware product.
It’s also a bit ridiculous to think a steering wheel would be the device we carry around. It looks heavy and bulky. Instead, biometrics in my office will identify my voice. When I summon an autonomous car, it will adjust itself to my preferences. I won’t talk about navigation. An AI will already know more about my day and my schedule than I can remember myself. It will take me to my destination automatically, based on machine learning algorithms, not based on what I told a steering wheel in my living room. If an AI determines that I’d like to drive on a curvy road, it will simply offer to let me drive.
All of this is to say — bots will live in the cloud. We’ll activate them without thinking about where they are located or which speaker we have in our office. They will know our preferences, and conversations won’t be scripted and basic like the voicebot interactions we have today. If anything, Sayer is what I hope will not be viable in 2040, despite how much I like the car design.