How long will cars still be cars?

Anyone who entered the process of buying a car in the last year or so at a certain point questioned himself to go ‘electric or not’ to some degree.

At #SxSW, the conference that gives you a glimpse of the bright and shiny future, the question is not whether or not the future of mobility will be electric or not. The questions being answered are what cars will look like, if you’ll still own it, and more importantly how you’ll spend your time in it.

Full electric Formula 1 car by Mercedes

Let’s review you morning routine for a minute. You wake up from a happy dream, enjoy a nice hot shower, slowly start your day with your morning coffee, eat a sandwich, all peaceful to some extent, depending on your kids’ age bracket. The moment you enter your car however, your mind immediately switches to your default ‘rush’ state. You open your waze, frantically search for traffic information, app-switch to your calendar, and then, slowly, boredom kicks in until you reach point B. Thank god you can still yank the wheel from time to time.

The problem with these future all-electric self-driving fully autonomous cars will be exactly that – being bored to tears whilst being confined to a 4-seat leather-filled completely closed space. Depending on your model – with or without legroom.

Luckily, some OEM manufacturers are working on solving that exact problem by completely changing your commute experience. While Tesla tries to remove the clutter from the dashboard to make you more aware of your surroundings, Mercedes’ Lucid Dreams project tries to enhance your ride by immersing you in a 4D experience while you’re being driven around by your iPad-on-wheels.

#LucidDreams by Mercedes

The program combines data from your ride characteristics (speed, surroundings, road conditions, …) with an AI powered experience that could be best described your best LSD trip ever, creating a personalised happy experience for everyone. A test in the prototype car popped out manta rays diving into airwater, and auto-generated futuristic skyscrapers that could’ve easily made the cut for the sequel of Tron.

In most VR setups I’ve done to date, you always have that ‘I’m still connected‘ feeling because you’re physically still standing on the ground, but thanks to the combination of location, ride stats and 3D, I finally experienced a VR situation that actually might work.

Chris Urmson, CEO Aurora

In a separate debate, Malcolm Gladwell (Author ‘The Tipping Point) discussed Chris Urmson (CEO, Aurora) on that same future, and while we’re all racing towards level 5 autonomous driving, doing our utmost to make those drives and commutes as pleasant as possible, there’s a few things that keeps unattended.

As a society, we will have tackled autonomous driving in an not-so-distant near future, but we’ll still commute. If your morning drive is so relaxing, comforting and soothing, you won’t bother about traffic. It doesn’t matter if it takes you 30 minutes or 2 hours to get to work, because you’ll be able to do whatever you want in your leather prison.

Considering the inside of our cars, there will be plenty of space ànd time to spare, which means it won’t take long before advertising and media step up to play. Or perhaps car manufacturers could become the media outlets of the future, since they’ll have the largest available outdoor personal advertising space. Who knows? Exciting times ahead…

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