That gets you thinking. Driving without a driver? It’s a crazy idea – but an exciting one! Everybody talks about autonomous driving, but up to now it’s been no more than a concept. In the near future, however, that theory will become a reality. The first licenses have already been issued, and, in California, the first autonomous vehicles are already on the roads. Rather than sitting at the steering wheel yourself and having to concentrate on your driving, you will be able to chat with other passengers, work, surf the web on your smartphone, or just relax. All those stressful situations that lead to traffic jams and wrong turns will be a thing of the past.
What impact will that have? For one, people will be calmer. There will be no need for all those multi-story car parks in the city, so there will be more space for green areas and new homes. With everything controlled super-efficiently by computers, there will be fewer hold-ups. For commuters, the journey home won’t take as long.
All this is no longer science fiction but science fact! However, the new driving systems being developed rely crucially on our ability to process huge volumes of data and control autonomous road traffic. In turn, that demands computer power on an enormous scale. New vehicles are already connected to the Internet and supply all the data they generate to the manufacturer, transforming its role from that of a traditional car maker to one of comprehensive data manager. Besides monitoring your vehicle’s current status, the system will evaluate the data it receives on your movements and offer you customized solutions to match your individual mobility needs. Obviously, big data management firms such as Google have been interested in cars for years.
While you are still reflecting on all these changes, Jeff announces that you have arrived in Palo Alto. The city is home to Stanford University, which has provided the spark for a host of business start-ups. It was the construction of Stanford Industrial Park here in 1951 that laid the foundation for Silicon Valley. You might say that Palo Alto and its neighbors Mountain View and Sunnyvale are the birthplace of what we now refer to as Industry 4.0. Companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Google are based here. Intel and AMD are in nearby Santa Clara, and Apple is just a bit further south in Cupertino.
As Jeff turns off Highway 101 in Sunnyvale and picks up Highway 237, he says: “Look over there. That’s an Amazon R&D lab. All the established car makers have also set up technology centers in this area – the Americans as well as the Germans and Japanese.” The future of mobility is being forged right here.