The future of American transportation may include...banning drivers?
That's one of several scenarios painted by futurist Glen Hiemstra of Futurist.com, as he talked to the Texas Transportation Forum at the Grand Hyatt about the vision of the roads of the coming two decades.
Much of the future involves self-driving vehicles. He says the over the road trucking industry will be the first to embrace the concept, probably in the area of what is called 'platooning,' or having a convoy of driverless 18 wheelers being guided down the highway by a truck with a driver.
"A human driven truck in front, and then all of the vehicles behind it go into auto pilot, basically," Hiemstra said. "That way they can pull close together like NASCAR cars, eliminating wind resistance and saving fuel."
He says the first use of driverless vehicles will be to allow several trucks to act like one truck, with only one driver ''pulling' the entire convoy.
He says completely autonomous vehicles aren't far behind. In fact, Hiemstra sees the day when human driving will be outlawed, because autonomous systems are so much safer, don't engage in road rage, and don't do stupid things on the highway.
"One can imagine both by the insurance industry and by government, we might be asked to give up driving for the sake of safety."
As far as fuels are concerned, Hiemstra sees fossil fuels like gasoline continuing to power out vehicles into the future, especially given the booming U.S. production. He says electricity will also take over much of the power for transpiration, possibly transmitted right to the vehicle through an electrified road grid.
But the most intriguing aspect of the future of transportation is the very real possibility of fewer, not more, cars, on the highway. He says people under thirty think of car ownership as a 'time and money suck,' and he says a Ford TV commercial which aired over the weekend was the first of many attempts by the automakers to interest Millennials in cars as a product.
"They did this whole series of ads in which young children walk up to Santa Claus and say, I want a pickup, or I want a Ford Focus or something like that," he said. "That is completely about demographics and is completely about a declining interest in cars on the part of young people."
He said if Millennials can't be convinced to think of cars with the same enthusiasm as Baby Boomers, it could lead to a major change in our highways, our economies, and our way of life.