The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom. - Isaac Asimov
The seeming simultaneous slow and rapid approach of electric vehicles and those that become autonomous has been an interesting thing to witness. Effectively 19 companies will be going all electric with some form of autonomy in the next two and a half years from the writing of this post, saying 2020-2021 would seem far away but consider that's not too long from today. And this is just a small sampling, there are manufacturers who don't think EVs will compromise a large portion of the market, though shortsighted and pompous, it's that very fear that may actually accelerate the oncoming adoption of these vehicles.
This is something that has to be viewed not necessarily from the standpoint of the US but worldwide, it's clear based on some policies implemented or the lack thereof the US will be behind to a minor and/or substantial degree. Nevertheless the adoption and scale at which countries are moving to transition their mode of transportation is increasingly coming to light with time frames that aren't far from now, especially in China. And with the announcements from the many countries of their wish of an EV society is the ongoing testing of autonomy in these vehicles as well.
Waymo is currently offering residents in Pheonix to sign up for a trial of free on-demand rides, this is a logical step of interacting with a public outside of the tech industry who think of autonomous cars and declare there's simply no way in hell they're getting in a car that drives itself. Offering these "beta" tests is the most logical step that companies like Uber (pending their behavior and customer base), DiDi, Lyft, GM, and others will eventually take. Something as a trust tour of companies moving into the waters of driverless vehicles that will be sold to the public in masse. The lack of trust is warranted, questions remain and have yet to be answered in the slightest form, who is effectively at fault of an accident if a passenger is injured? How will a potential sharing aspect work with these vehicles purchased for ownership? Questions we won't get answers to for some time, though as these tests roll out to the public some solidified information will come to the surface.
Electric vehicles and autonomous cars are a great thing to look forward to, hopefully something could help communities of color what with all of the unnecessary police stops, blatent environmental racism and such but that's for another time. One thing that hasn't been fully discussed in detail is the new approach of infrastructure needed to charge and store the EV's and those that reach autonomy yet unowned. In one sense Tesla is said it will double it's supercharger network throughout the year which is commendable, but there need to be more than what Tesla will develop and in more areas, with greater access, and ease of use. Kindof like the vast amount of gas stations.
Speaking of gas stations and the fact that there's a universal nosil to use to fill up the car, where is the EV charging standard? There's currently a standard socket for plugging in appliances within the home, the lack of an EV charging standard that works with all EV's coming over the next few years will do nothing but cause a delay in adoption and frustrate consumers. Without clarity around this obvious issue the confusion around ev's will continue, unless the success of the Tesla Model 3 leads to them having the clout and political sway to ensure their supercharging network and connectors are what become standard.
One of the many questions around the audacity to transition to electric drive trains has been around the infrastructure required to charge the vehicles, the amount of time it takes to charge them, and at what cost if many charging stations are using solar power for the charging ports? It'll be interesting to see how all of this shapes up considering how every manufacturer is on board with delivering a suite of electric vehices over the next two and a half years.
Beyond Personal Transportation
With electric and autonomy, many in the tech industry see personal ownership of vehicles going away, many of these same well-off individuals ignore the millions that rely on mass transit systems to get from home and work. These are individuals who never owned a vehicle or one that was less than 5-10 years old. This is something common within an industry that finds diversity and inclusivity too difficult to handle and implement but can pivot on a dime costing a few hundred million to add filters. There has to be something that goes beyond the car and into public transportation, ambulances, and other services that actually help the underserved.
The idea of using a small to mid-sized city with the necessary scope to test electric school buses as well as public buses on roads with the implementation of some autonomy could be more beneficial than a focus around individual autonomous cars. There are positives and negatives to this but it seems it's an idea that many haven't even considered. Obviously autonomous school buses are a bit much to ask for so soon, but the conversion to electric is essentially a first step, you have fixed routes that don't necessarily change and the understanding from how all of this would serve as lesson for saving money in varying capacities.
There's obviously a trend, but considering electric and autonomous mass transit systems that could conceivably help the environment in low income areas where they'd be used regularly, it would be ideal to go beyond personal transport theory.