When we think about consumer tech, it’s all too easy to think about the face value benefits. What’s in it for me? How cool will it be when we can do that? It can all be a little bit shallow.
A great example of this is self-driving, or autonomous, cars. Mention those to anyone, and the first thought that comes to mind is a car that does all the hard work, driving individuals around while they crack on with some work, or feast on pizza on the way back from a heavy night on the sauce.
Sure, those are cool uses for the tech, but it barely scratches the surface of the true scope. I was recently at the DES – Digital World Business Congress in Madrid, where I was lucky enough to see a good friend, Bay McLaughlin, of Brinc.io, give a very insightful talk on tech in business.
During his talk, he uses autonomous cars as an example of how tech can make our lives better, and how in turn, it drives revenue. Skirting round the obvious cool uses, he brought up a stark, sobering statistic.
“Every single day, 700 people in China die from a car related accident.”
Let’s say that again, out loud. 700 people, every single day, die from a car related accident in China. That is an insane number of people. A totally ridiculous 255,550 people each year.
Once the tech is there, and we all have a driverless car, think about it, it will be physically impossible to have a car accident. They just will not be able to crash. The network will make being in, or around, a car one of the safest activities we can undertake.
So, by pushing the tech forward, we not only save a great number of lives, but a huge amount of money and potential revenue. It’s never nice to put a value on a life, but for this example, Bay guestimated at around $500,000 per individual, of lifetime yield. You don’t need me to tell you that this very quickly becomes a truly eye-watering figure in just one year.
Yes, autonomous cars will be there for us when we need a drunken ride home, but it’s so, so, much more than that. This is why I admire companies like Huawei that are spending so much on R&D to put the infrastructure in place to enable fully automated vehicles. Obviously we need the car manufacturers, and of course internet giants, to develop the cars themselves, but these need a back bone to work from. Think digital road for the cars to talk, and you’re looking at super-fast 5G networks with the ultra low latency needed for autonomous cars to work.
It’s not just the communications network that Huawei are working on. They’ve also looked at ways to bring their AI tech to autonomous vehicles, and have even displayed the first smartphone powered car, which used their Mate 10 Pro to drive a Porsche Panamera. It was able to not only drive the car, but was also fully aware of its surroundings, using the phone’s AI capabilities to recognise objects, and make decisions based on the data.
So, yes, advances in tech may seem superficial when you first look at them, but always try a different angle. Don’t think about what it can do for you, but what it might be able to do for someone else.
Solving just one problem can have a huge impact on our civilisation, and that’s what I love about technology.