Why 2020’ll be most vi­tal year in au­to­mo­bile his­tory

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The Punch - - AUTO -

HE year 2020 is shap­ing up to be pretty in­cred­i­ble: not only does it sound tan­ta­lis­ingly fu­tur­is­tic, it will for­ever be known as the year when fully au­tonomous cars fi­nally started to be­come com­mon­place; Tesla’s af­ford­able Model 3 will have been with us for three (okay, prob­a­bly two) years; and, mer­ci­fully, Porsche will have launched their breath­tak­ingly gor­geous Mis­sion E sports sedan.

Best of all, this fas­ci­nat­ing time will no longer be re­served for only the aris­toc­racy: fi­nally avail­able will be the first of the gen­uinely af­ford­able breed of au­tonomous elec­tric ve­hi­cles: the forth­com­ing Chevy Bolt, for in­stance; fu­ture it­er­a­tions of BMWS su­perla­tive lit­tle i3; Volvo’s foray into elec­tri­fi­ca­tion; not to men­tion Audi’s bold claim of 25 per cent bat­tery-pow­ered ve­hi­cles.

In­deed, if the 1900s were the horse-and-buggy gen­er­a­tion; the 1910s the Model T gen­er­a­tion; and the 1950s the mus­cle car gen­er­a­tion; then the 2020s will her­ald the start of the fully au­tonomous and elec­tric car gen­er­a­tion.

What’s in­ter­est­ing — in an his­tor­i­cally ironic sense — is that we will once again be liv­ing in ‘the ’20s’ which will, come the turn of the 22nd cen­tury, sound woe­fully old­fash­ioned: “re­ally? you guys were ac­tu­ally still al­lowed to drive cars your­selves?” lit­tle kids will ask in gen­uinely — and le­git­i­mately — shocked dis­be­lief. “That’s crazy!! I can’t be­lieve you guys ac­tu­ally did that! Peo­ple must have died all the time in those things!” yes, yes they did. Er… they do.

Re­ally, kids’ re­ac­tions to the first, hu­man-driven gen­er­a­tion of the au­to­mo­bile, will be no dif­fer­ent to our re­ac­tions to­day when we see an old movie from the 1940s and 1950s — to speak noth­ing of the 1920s — when we see the types of cars peo­ple drove, with their ut­ter lack of any safety el­e­ments what­so­ever.

Our mind-numb­ing ac­cep­tance of to­day’s ter­ri­fy­ingly dan­ger­ous au­to­mo­tive world is only marginally less asi­nine than that of the past 100 years. un­for­tu­nately, we just don’t usu­ally see it that way be­cause we’re liv­ing in it. The toad in boil­ing wa­ter then.

But per­haps the coolest thing of all is that 2020 isn’t that far away at all: as we bring 2014 to a close, it’s now just a mouth­wa­ter­ing four years away.

That Porsche has green-lighted the kneeweak­en­ing beauty that is the Mis­sion E is ac­tu­ally a big deal. Slated to go headto-head with the Tesla Model S, it val­i­dates both Tesla as a real en­tity with which to be reck­oned, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously em­brac­ing the elec­tric car revo­lu­tion head-on.

But look what else we’ll have come 2020: Tesla’s auto-pi­lot will be fully au­tonomous; Volvo will achieve its Vi­sion 2020 goal of zero deaths or se­ri­ous in­juries to oc­cu­pants of Volvo ve­hi­cles; Ford will have launched its line of au­tonomous pas­sen­ger cars; Google will have prob­a­bly li­censed out its tech to other com­pa­nies just as it has done with its an­droid OS; ap­ple will have launched its hy­per-se­cre­tive car (per­haps co-cre­ated with an­other player in the au­to­mo­tive world); navya’s fully driver­less buses will be en­joyed by ur­ban cores around the world; to­day’s al­ready-ad­mirable 270-mi range of the Tesla Model S will be as high as 400 or even 500 miles; and, if Porsche’s Mis­sion E 800 volt charger be­comes stan­dard, we will en­joy 80 per cent charges in just 15 min­utes.

In plain terms then, 2020 will mark the start of the era when fully au­tonomous cars fi­nally start to en­ter the mar­ket and be­gin to re­duce our ap­palling 3,000 ve­hic­u­lar deaths per month; elec­tric car ‘range anx­i­ety’ sounds as ab­surd and ar­chaic a thing as leaded gaso­line; and buy­ing pure elec­tric cars will be as com­mon a thing as buy­ing a Prius to­day.

I’ve echoed Elon Musk be­fore, and I’ll echo him again: man­u­ally driv­ing a car will be like rid­ing a horse. and just as the lat­ter is still en­joyed for plea­sure, so the for­mer will of course still be used for plea­sure. We’ve seen the same thing with the tran­si­tion to au­to­matic trans­mis­sions from man­ual gear­boxes.

This tran­si­tion — though seem­ingly more rad­i­cal — will sim­i­larly be re­garded as a sort of ‘well of course cars should be au­tonomous’ mo­ment, the same way we say ‘well of course cars should have seat belts/air bags/abs brakes and trac­tion con­trol sys­tems/etc.’

To who­ever still re­gards this tremen­dous par­a­digm shift in our lives with trep­i­da­tion, don’t: wel­come it and em­brace it with open arms. all of our lives are about to get a whole lot bet­ter. Bet­ter even than our tran­si­tion to the mo­tor car from the horse-and-buggy more than 100 years ago. I can­not wait.

Culled from the In­ter­net

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