What is Reality? Should we believe everything we read?


What is Reality? Should we believe everything we read?

I asked the Temecula Group attendees to send a 75 word synopsis of their thoughts on the future of parking. One said this:

Times are changing. What has been a staple of modern society for the last 50 to 100 years, the car, is now being radically re-thought out. With car ownership on the decline and driverless vehicles on the cusp of reality, we cannot take for granted that people will ALWAYS need to park their cars in huge warehouses in the middle of a city center and that they will always be willing to pay a premium for such “convenience.” Today convenience comes from technology wrapped in packages like rideshares and cars that will do the driving for you. While cars and the need for parking will never go away, our industry in 15 years will look much different than it does today.

Fair enough. But this comment makes some incorrect assumptions. It says that car ownership is decreasing. However, the car companies sold more cars last year than in any year in history. So reality is that if anything, car ownership is increasing, not decreasing. It also posits that driverless vehicles are ‘on the cusp of reality.’ However true driverless vehicles, those with no driver in the vehicle, are projected 30 to 50 years or more away, hardly a ‘cusp.’

Often we read that MaaS — Mobility as a Service — is taking hold and folks are spurning their private vehicles for buses, rapid transit, and the like. However the stats show that the percentage of people using rapid transit over the past 60 years has not changed but hovers at around 15%.

In her presentation at the NPA Mary Smith cautioned that when you read surveys and projections, you must consider the source. Does the writer have a dog in the fight? If you read an article about, say, self driving cars, what is the source.  Does the writer work for a technology firm that will profit from ubiquitious self driving vehicles?  (most do)

When Elon Musk talks about self driving vehicles, exactly what does he mean. Is he talking about the Tesla of today that requires a driver in the driver sear to ‘take over’ just in case, or is he talking about a “George Jetson” car that requires no driver at any speed, on any road, in any weather. Of course he is talking about the first, but often times his audience hears the second.

How about another example:

The headline says:

Audi Beats Tesla (And GM) To Level 3 Autonomy

But if you read the article, there’s this disclaimer:

The new A8 is the first production automobile to have been developed specially for highly automated driving. The Audi AI traffic jam pilot takes charge of driving in slow-moving traffic at up to 60 km/h (37.3 mph) on freeways and highways where a physical barrier separates the two carriageways. The system is activated using the AI button on the center console. – Audi Press release

What is reality here.  You can buy a self driving Audi, but it can only be “Self Driving” at 37 mph and on a divided road (no oncoming traffic).  Sounds to me like it would work on the 405 at rush hour, however if you decided to take it to Vegas, the normal 4 hour trip would take 8.

Once again, what is reality.

We want to believe that by 2045 cars will be like the one in Blade Runner but that’s fiction. We want to believe that cars that can drive as we would drive without a human in the driver’s seat in 5 or 10 years, but is that reality?

One of the Temecula group attendees is an high end infrastructure investor. He asked the question — “How do I know in what to invest? What will the transportation system look like in 40 years?”  He’s talking about losing billions if he guesses wrong.

What is reality? How do we know? I suggest we take most projections with a grain of salt. Carefully read and source each ‘future looking’ article. And use common sense. Just because someone says it, doesn’t make it so.

Remember reality is that you have to have a “level 5” self driving vehicle before it will truly affect our industry, if then. That’s a vehicle that will drive itself on any street, in any weather, at any speed. No human involved. I now things are supposed to move quickly in technology, but the problems that have to be solved to create that level 5 vehicle make the development of the PC or Smart Phone pale in insignificance.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

2 Responses

  1. JVH, you are right – car sales are at their peak, but such a statistic doesn’t accurately reflect the realities of the state of the car in the US today.

    Let’s take a look at a few other points that perhaps will give a more holistic view of the role of the car in our society. (Based on a study out of the University of Michigan in February of 2007)

    Average number of vehicles per household
    2017 – 1.950
    2006 (peak) – 2.050

    Average number of vehicles per person
    2017 – 0.756
    2006 (peak) – 0.786

    Average miles driven per driver per year:
    2017 – 8,648
    2004 (peak) – 9,314

    Average miles driven per household:
    2017 – 22,311
    2004 (peak) – 24,349

    Furthermore, more people are shying away from owning a car at all, the number of households without a car increased between 2010 and 2015 from 8.9 percent to 9.1 percent for the first time since the 1960s where it peaked around 23 percent.

    And in terms of driverless cars not “being on the cusp” of reality, sure, I’ll give you that one. But that’s because, in all actuality, they are already HERE. From Path Departure Warning technology to Self-parking technology to Forward Collision Warning, anyone driving in a somewhat new car has been riding in a somewhat driverless vehicle all along.

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