Want to know what the world will look like in 10 years? If you like science fiction, you might love what’s in store.
This is Part 1 of a five-part white paper series called Routes to the Future, in which we explore the innovations, challenges and opportunities in a new era of possibilities.
Since the beginning of recorded history, humans have been imagining future innovations with an intensity born out of our survival instinct.
It’s in our DNA to grow our resources and capabilities, enhance our well-being and make commerce – and life – safer and more fruitful.
From ancient philosophers and scientists, to novelists and filmmakers, to technologists, engineers and commercial industry leaders, dreaming big is what inspires big achievements.
The best minds of today envision a future that resembles a sci-fi utopia, where the borders between technology and human ingenuity fade away.
The idea that we’re becoming one with our technology kind of blows your hair back.
Where’s the line between technology that solves problems and technology that creates problems? There’s a tension, an edge, to dreaming of the future.
Big ideas and provocative conversation stir the pot of innovation. That’s why we created Routes to the Future, a multi-volume series that dives into the latest thinking and imagining of our future.
Our first volume, How We’ll Get Around, envisions our vehicles as real life Transformers, with way more than meets the eye. Later this year, in subsequent volumes, we’ll explore how we’ll make things, how we’ll trade, how we’ll work and how we’ll interact.
Routes to the Future is not science fiction. It heralds a new reality for a new era.
How We’ll Get Around
Today, we’re launching the first in this series on the future of transportation and the ambitious road ahead.
It may be hard to imagine in 2016, but by 2030, roughly a quarter of all vehicles on the road will be fully autonomous.
As they become smarter, more flexible and more connected than ever before, it will transform our accessibility, logistics, business and our day-to-day lives.
Autonomous vehicles will provide us with increasingly agile and mobile lifestyles, giving us more time to invent, dream, build and explore.
This will impact everything from transportation policy to urban planning to logistics.
New business services — and business sectors — will emerge.
Driving will gradually become much safer as human error is reduced. In fact, self-driving cars could eventually reduce accidents by 80 percent in coming decades.
And then there is the potential savings in fuel as cars navigate cities more efficiently, and the reduction in CO2 emissions that is so critical to our future.
Logistics companies will predict the fastest way to move any parcel between different modes of transportation – and in real time.
A completely optimized network provides unlimited ways to get anything to any destination, making the supply chain more flexible. Imagine eliminating chronic inventory problems by ensuring supply never outpaces demand.
The Car as Caped Crusader
Of course, superheroes have autonomous vehicles down. Batman’s Batmobile suddenly materializes to help him out of jam. Wonder Woman can summon her invisible jet with her tiara.
Now imagine a car that is your personal caped crusader, able to help you navigate increasingly congested cities and make your life easier at the blink of an eye.
Visiting a new city? Sit back and watch your windshield like a flat-screen TV as you learn more about the places you travel past.
Vehicles will transform into platforms for all kinds of services, seamlessly customizing trunk space and collapsing passenger seats depending on whether they are picking up your kids, your laundry, or a cargo container.
With sensors in your seatbelt and other on-board technology, your vehicle will respond to your biorhythms, collecting hundreds of health metrics automatically and perhaps even predicting heart attacks or neurological disorders.
It may also measure your microbiome – the bacteria that live in and around your body – to provide early warnings of infections.
Challenges to Come
On the other hand, change requires preparation, thoughtfulness and the ability to adapt.
“A completely optimized network provides unlimited ways to get anything to any destination.”
Established companies will feel the pressure to change as their business models become outdated.
Drivers accustomed to trusting their own brains and reflexes will have to get used to letting computers take the wheel.
Are we ready for these changes?
After all, ever since UPS started as a local bike messenger service, we’ve been evolving right along with technology, just like many other leaders of industry.
Photo credit: Volvo Concept 26. Read more about this self-driving vehicle in Routes to the Future, How We’ll Get Around.
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Reprinted with permission of Longitudes, the UPS blog devoted to the trends shaping the global economy.