What it is: Apple recently hired Nvidia’s artificial intelligence director Jonathan Cohen who was working with visual recognition for self-driving cars.
It’s no secret that Apple is working on a car project. After Apple hired Jonathan Cohen away from Nvidia, it’s apparent that Apple, like Google, is also looking for self-driving cars. While Google’s self-driving car has been getting all the publicity, Apple’s Project Titan has been shrouded in mystery.
Apple supposedly will release their car project by 2019 in whatever form it may be, but the future of self-driving cars will already change the world whether it’s shaped by Apple, Google, Tesla, or some other company altogether. Self-driving cars are the future and they most likely won’t be powered by gasoline or diesel. Instead they’ll be more likely to be powered by electricity or fuel cells.
Making a self-driving car is obviously the future, but it will cause plenty of misery and suffering for anyone currently profiting off today’s fuel driven car culture. First to go will be the auto makers like General Motors and Ford. These dinosaurs think that no other company can challenge them in the car business because they have so much expertise in making cars. However, they also have so much expertise in building the wrong types of cars.
Today’s cars are mostly powered by internal combustion engines fed by fuel lines, both of which will be totally obsolete in an electric/fuel cell powered vehicle. Detroit auto makers simply have expertise in making obsolete products, much like Blackberry specialized in tiny keyboards on smartphones or how Kodak specialized in chemicals for making and processing film. Nobody knocked Blackberry and Kodak off by duplicating their expertise. The iPhone’s virtual keyboard and touch screen interface just made physical keyboards obsolete on smartphones, and digital photography eliminated the need for any chemical expertise whatsoever in photography.
The way to knock off a leader isn’t to duplicate the leader’s expertise, but to make that expertise obsolete. That means the leader can’t change fast enough because they’ll cling for too long on their expertise. Kodak clung to their film business for so long until digital photography wiped them out. Borders Books clung to their retail expertise and let Amazon wipe them out in selling books over the Internet. Likewise, Detroit’s auto makers will cling to internal combustion engines and fuel pump technology as their main expertise while totally overlooking the future of self-driving cars powered by anything other than fossil fuels.
Todays’ auto makers already have some expertise in building electric cars, but it’s nowhere as imposing as their expertise in internal combustion engines or fuel pump technology. How much expertise do today’s auto makers have in self-driving cars? Very little compared to Google, Apple, and Tesla, which means they’re actually burdened by their expertise in obsolete technology.
When self-driving cars become practical and affordable, you can expect today’s cars will be obsolete as fast as Blackberry and Nokia smartphones were made obsolete overnight by the iPhone. The first self-driving cars may be too expensive for individuals to purchase, but they may be fine for Uber or taxi companies to purchase. Imagine how much profit Uber could make eliminating drivers and just sending self-driving cars around to pick up passengers and drop them off.
Once people get used to self-driving taxis driving them around, the idea of purchasing a self-driving car will be more feasible. They may be expensive, but senior citizens (who have lots of money) will need self-driving cars so they can remain independent. Today’s younger people aren’t gravitating towards car ownership as much any more because of the hassle of parking and driving through rush hour. Get a self-driving car and rush hour is meaningless since you can work, sleep, or enjoy yourself. Instead of an hour long commute wasting your time, you could get work done and be productive, or just watch a movie on the way to work.
Given the huge advantage of a self-driving car, think anyone would want to buy an ordinary gasoline powered car that forces you to drive it yourself?
So expect all the Detroit auto makers to go down the drain in a hurry like Blackberry and Nokia. That means Detroit will become a ghost town as the Big Three auto makers all plummet like Blackberry and Nokia, laying off thousands in a desperate attempt to stay relevant. It won’t work, which means the last place you want to live will be anywhere near Detroit as so many automotive engineers lose their jobs with no hope of ever getting them back. What’s an internal combustion engineer going to do in a world of electric and fuel cell powered cars?
Detroit is doomed and the traditional auto makers are going to sink the city along with the entire auto industry. As more self-driving cars appear, insurance rates will be cheaper for people who use a self-driving car that gets in far fewer accidents. Economically, it will be far more expensive and far more inconvenient to use a traditional car, which means they’ll go away far faster than Blackberry and Nokia phones disappeared when Apple introduced the iPhone.
The future is bright for everyone but the auto industry, the oil industry, and anyone depending on either industry such as car dealerships and gas stations. Once people get a taste for self-driving cars, they’ll never want to drive themselves ever again.
To read a book about Detroit’s gradual decline that’s only going to get worse, read “Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story” and you’ll see how fast a city can plummet. Now accelerate this by ten and that’s how fast Detroit will die a second time when self-driving cars appear. Detroit will become an economic wasteland that’s even worse than what it is today as dependence on traditional cars evaporates overnight.