TechDissected.com: 7:00 am. My alarm is yelling at me. I shower and get ready for the workday ahead. Hands need shaking and a deal needs closing with Mr. Bigwig. My phone vibrates notifying me that my car is arriving in 5 minutes.
There are many cars I could use to get around. They used to be called “driverless cars” and then “AutoCars” but once virtually every vehicle on the road became autonomous they were simply referred to as “cars.” Some people actually own their own car. The majority, like me, pay monthly for access to a basic commuter.
Commuter cars charge based on the number of miles traveled, specific city taxes, insurance (still required for some reason), and any incidents and damage charges. I have a separate bill for the one-off special occasion cars. Google’s car is one of the best as far as price due to ads subsidizing the cost and all of the included entertainment features.
The car is scheduled to pick me up at 8:00 am every day. Sometimes it’s a few minutes late. If I’m more than 5 minutes late getting into the car I’ll be charged a fee, have to wait for the next car to pick me up, and my rating will be docked. Currently, I have a 4.8/5 star rating. This means I’ve almost never caused damage to the car and I’m rarely late. A good rating means cars will arrive faster, I’ll be allowed to ride in newer, cleaner cars and my monthly rates will be lower.
Having Cars Drive You
I step into the car and sleepily nod to the other commuters already seated and heading into the city. Almost everyone commutes. Living far outside of the city is not an issue when you can work and entertain yourself the entire way. I could choose to ride solo but riding with others is much more affordable. The tax for entering the city on a solo car is outrageous. Every city has a tax on all cars to prevent congestion in the city and to makeup for the lack of funds from the highway patrol of the past.
The door automatically closes as I sit down and settle in for the 54 minute ride ahead.
This car is pretty typical. You won’t find a steering wheel, shifters, brake pedals, airbags, seat belts or really any of the “features” of the death boxes of the past. This car also doesn’t even have a windshield. It has plastic windows on all sides but lacks wraparound glass common on antique cars. There is an emergency button to pull over immediately.
There is a touch panel in the middle of the car. When not in use, the panel scrolls through advertisements and discounts to local eateries and stores. It can be a little annoying at times but without it the Google Car wouldn’t be one the cheapest options. I mostly tune it out. Once in a while the advertisements come in handy. I’m hungry and Google knows my favorite places to eat within a few minutes of my location.
Most of the interactions for this car occur through an app on my phone or tablet. Google’s app is called Google Go. It allows me to change the climate for my seating area, view the route, select entertainment or add in a new destination. When riding with other passengers, new destinations or entertainment require their approval. I ride with the same passengers most days so it’s rare when a detour is needed and we tend to keep to ourselves. If a detour is needed and deemed too long by the other passengers you can be dropped off in an area with low risk of accident and crime and picked up by another car within minutes.
We are zooming along a 6-lane highway. In the morning, the highway uses 5 of the lanes for those entering the city and one for the cars leaving. On the way home, the lanes will switch to prevent any congestion when leaving the city. Nothing really changes other than the direction of the cars. It’s not like there are traffic signs, medians, guardrails or any other “safety precautions” to reposition. Usually we travel behind the road trains (“semi’s” or “trucks”). It’s more efficient for smaller vehicles to draft behind larger vehicles.
Traffic is cruising smoothly at 70 mph — bumper to bumper and door to door. There’s a fast lane to the left that sustains 100 mph. It costs extra but it’s helpful if I’m late.
The cars aren’t perfect but they are getting better. Once in a while there will be a minor issue: repairs to the road, a suicidal deer, making way for an emergency bullet car (bullet cars are allowed to travel much faster than regular cars), or because your car had a mechanical problem. Even the newest cars can still have issues. While rare, it costs you a few minutes while you wait for another car to pick you up. And let’s not mention the car hack that caused all that ruckus a couple of years back.
There are never traffic jams although traffic slows to about 40 mph once we get into the city. When cars need to come to a full stop in the city they will resume by accelerating together in perfect unison.
As we enter the city, traffic slows as the cars stop to drop off their passengers. Cities are much more compact than they once were and also much larger. It’s funny to think that cities used to be full of pavement. Cars sat idly during the day waiting patiently like my dog wagging its tail at the front door. Parking lots are now skyscrapers. There are a couple large battery swap stations on the outskirts of the city which resemble a parking lot though nothing like the vast concrete deserts of yesteryear.
During the day the car never sits in one place for more than about 20 minutes. Many cars will get a rest at night during off-peak hours in one of the car elevators where the cleaning bots scurry to ensure the car is ready for the next day’s customers.
After 54 minutes, we arrive at our drop-off point. We all exit the car and it zips off to pick up the nearest rider. I enter the office to chat with colleagues and prepare for my sales meeting with Mr. Bigwig. I’ll need a fancier car for this. First impressions are important. I can’t have the client thinking I’m an everyday Joe.
There are many types of cars. There is the common cheap commuter car, along with a typical a mid-range, and the luxury style. There are also sleeping cars, party cars, entertainment cars, romantic cars, and a wide range of other niche designs and features. Once in a while after a long night I’ll splurge on the “hangover car” to the office the next morning: no windows, a recliner, the soft sounds of nature and an Advil dispenser; the only way to travel on those days.
Taking out my phone, I open Google Now, “Grab me an empty luxury car with a full bar for a meeting.”
The nearest available luxury car with these specifications is 8 minutes away. Google Now knows that when I mention the word “meeting” to find a car with at least two seats facing each other and a screen for presentations. Behind me is a full bar. I make myself a cocktail on the way which is charged to my account. We arrive at Mr. Bigwig’s place of work and he gets in the car. It’s only 15 minutes to our lunch destination but it’s enough time to start the pitch. I turn on the screens on the side of the car and start talking numbers.
Damn. That meeting was a disaster. Looks like I won’t be getting any business from Mr. Bigwig. Oh well, you can’t win them all. After a short stint at the office, I change into some gym shorts and decide to take an exercise car on the way home to release some pent-up energy.
“Grab me an exercise car with a bike.”
As I step onto the bike the doors shut behind me. Screens surround me and ask what scenery I would prefer for my ride. I decided on the Irish countryside to unwind from the hectic day. The kids will be dropped off by a car soon and the groceries will be arriving shortly thereafter. The family has a full weekend planned. We’re taking a recreation car up to the mountains for a camping trip. It’s a 12-hour drive so we will leave after dinner and sleep on the way.
In the morning, I will wake up and switch the recreation car into manual mode and get behind the wheel. I’ll hit the gas and drive ourselves to a desolate off-road camping spot.