Road to [fill in blank]

There are two distinct road maps towards a future of autonomous driving; evolution and revolution. Technology tends to infiltrate society using the former method, with the occasional – perhaps even generational – revolutionary upheaval stirring the pot and providing the impetus for the next round of evolution. Autonomous cars are no different, which makes The Drive’s rather strident assertion that the Google car is a hoax rather alarmist. The point made is that Google has never had any intention of becoming a bricks, mortar and robot-equipped car-maker but is using its bubble-shaped pods to bolster, refine and ultimately promote tech that will be adopted by the existing manufacturers. This shouldn’t be a colossal surprise to anyone. The industry is currently awash with nascent partnerships and projected collaborations between tech names and car makers, each and every one of which is serving as a building block towards a structure that no-one yet knows what it looks like. GM’s partnership with Lyft, for example, splices autonomy with ride-sharing, whereas Volvo’s ongoing experiments with autonomous driving are just a couple of cycles behind Tesla’s Autopilot. For every partnership, there is an opportunity but also a potential conflict, as different standards and services and sensor arrays face up to one another, with the consumer – the ex-driver, allegedly – in the middle. In the meantime, designers are falling over each other to predict the coming interior revolution, when cars double up as ‘living rooms on wheels’. Imbuing inanimate objects with autonomous behaviour is hardly new, but two things stand out from the current situation; autonomous driving is seen as both inevitable yet also something that will be packaged up as part of a suite of ‘services’, offered at differing levels of sophistication and be tied to the subscriptions and partnerships that are being stitched together right now. Note how the 1950s family on the left is playing, while the executive on the right is working.

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