Last week I was sitting in an aircraft hangar with Jeff White who runs the Pacific Coast Flyers flying club here in Carlsbad California. He is a .NET software developer, a great flight instructor, club manager and an expert in all things aviation related. Think of him as a Southern California cool dude, who owns more airplanes than you own fountain pens. Jeff had finished a flight with a student and I was about to go out and fly with him. His student, as it turned out, was also a software engineer. Specializing in Artificial Intelligence. Working for a top secret company in San Diego on a top secret project.
During their flight debrief, of all the things they could bring up, they brought up the subject of a recent SciFi movie called Jupiter Rising. Jeff told his student that this was the cheesiest SciFi movie he had ever seen. The other guy said he enjoyed it. This piqued my curiosity.
Next day, I took my beautiful wife to the movie. The movie plot is somewhat a rehash on The Matrix. Something to do with an alien race farming humans like animals so that they could “harvest” them to prolong their own lives.
Before I digress out of range, let me get back to the self driving cars. But there is a connection coming up.
Self Driving cars are a big trending topic these days. You will continue to read more and more headlines about them in the next few years. Here are some interesting developments.
Google is working on its own self driving car. It will be autonomous in all driving conditions. Chris Urmson, the head of self driving cars at google was quoted saying, “It sounds quaint, I guess, but my team’s mission is to improve people’s lives by transforming mobility.” The google self drive car will not have a steering wheel.
Apple is reportedly working on a project Titan. They are recruiting vehicle experts at a secret lab outside Cupertino. Some people believe that they are working on the Apple Car.
A recent news headline suggests that Sony is also getting in the game. They want in because they make sensors and it is the sensors that make the autonomous in an autonomous car possible.
Something interesting is going on. Google is getting into this game, Apple is getting into this game, Sony is getting in, Tesla is halfway into it already, Mercedes Benz will have a fully autonomous car by 2020. Why is everyone so interested? I can assure you that its not about selling cars or making your commute meaningful. Its about something much bigger than that.
There are 250 Million registered vehicles in the United States alone. Average commute time in America is: 25.4 minutes. My personal guess is that average commute time in big metropolitan cities today is 45 minutes each way. With self driving cars, people will not mind driving 1 hour each way to their place of work.
Imagine yourself owning a self driving car. You are commuting two hours each day. There is no steering wheel. There is an Android tablet or a built-in iPad instead. You have an ultra high speed connection. You are busy working, checking emails, shopping, searching. You know getting harvested in ways you did not imagine.
The car will become the new storefront for new kinds of apps and utilities. Google and Apple will open up their vehicles to developers like you and me. We’ll come up “mobile” apps for all kinds of people moving at 75 miles per hour. The harvest will go on. The lives of big companies will prolong…and even end up improving the lives of ordinary commuters.
This is part two of my recent visit to the Porsche Dealership near my office. If you have read part one, you already know what brought me there.
As we walked out of the showroom into the parking lot, Roger asked me if I had 5 minutes. His eyes were shining with a naughty idea. I said of course I had 5 minutes. He whipped out a key from his right pocket and said let’s go. He was referring to the brand new Porsche Taycan parked one meter from where we stood.
I got in the passenger seat with him. As he pulled the car out of the parking lot, he asked another interesting question: “How is your heart condition?”. I told him that the electro mechanical subsystem attached to my hydraulic pump appeared to function normally.
The Hoehn dealership in Carlsbad is located in an ideal place in an ideal setting. The scenic curvy road outside the dealership connects to the Pacific Coast Highway running along the Pacific Ocean.
Like a well trained tour guide, Roger took full advantage of the location. He put the car in Rocket Mode and slammed the pedal to the metal. I felt my posture straightening out in the seat. Taycan is a 2 point something second car. And it showed. The acceleration, handling and comfort were superb. The thing I loved the most about this car was the subtle whine of the electric motors, and the absence of a noisy engine.
Then Roger asked me if I wanted to drive. Of course I wanted to drive. But unlike him, I put the car in Econo mode and cruised back to the dealership; staying within the speed limits. I wanted to see how the car drives when a tired man drives it in 5 ‘o clock traffic.
Back in the parking lot, Roger imparted with his expert advice, “This is the car for you. This is the car you should get.”
At the end of the test drive, my emotional attachment to the car was about the same as an Allied prisoner’s attachment to a Nazi prison guard in a WW-II movie. Anyway I told Roger that this was not the car for me because it didn’t pass the Andy Garcia test.
So what is the Andy Garcia test? Its a simple question and a simple answer:
When you turn the vehicle On, does it return the favor?