The future of cars
After a long journey, I finally climb into my rental car. It’s a nice ride: comfortable bucket seats with built-in heaters, plenty of leg room, good visibility on all sides, and a large dashboard screen.
As soon as I get in, the car notices I’m sitting in the driver’s seat and springs to life. The seat itself has already adjusted itself for my height and usual driving position. The car checks the rental car record and sees that I’m an authorized driver: I have the ability to turn on the engine and drive. The dashboard is illuminated with my operating system and choice of gauges, which follows me into every car I drive. The car’s underlying hardware and firmware provides a standard API — CarTalk, like the old radio show — and handles low-level self-driving and safety controls. In turn, my portable identity, represented by my phone or other identity-compatible hardware, provides the UI and user preferences on top of those APIs.
Five years from now, in 2035, gasoline-powered cars will be banned in most major markets. But the market is already way ahead of that milestone: well over half of all cars sold today are electric. Although sky-high gasoline prices are a huge factor in this, the availability of personalized interfaces like the one I’m using are another strong reason. You can’t get personalization like this on a legacy car: the APIs just aren’t there. Electric wins because it’s a more modern, streamlined experience.
The mirrors are all pre-adjusted; I’m ready to go. I manually drive out of the lot and onto the freeway. I don’t expect to be driving for long, and like to be in control. In practice, self-driving is still mostly the domain of fleet vehicles like freight trucks, light rail, and buses, although it’s a handy thing to turn on for very long drives, in the same way that people used to use cruise control.
For the last year and change, I’ve driven a Tesla Model 3 Long Range, a variant of the cheapest model of Tesla. This is in no way an endorsement of Elon Musk or the way the company is run: my mother wanted one, I put one on order, and when it arrived after she died I decided to keep it. I’ll probably exchange it sometime in…