In January, we saw two of the biggest tech conferences in the world, the Consumer Electronics Show and the Detroit Auto Show. While there are many things to talk about including the ever increasing scope of connected devices and homes which are now giving us smart toothbrushes and smart bedsheets and what not, the one trend that is the most exciting to me is the evolution of automobiles.

If you have seen sci-fi cartoons like The Jetsons, you will remember seeing self driving cars, cars that drove around without the need of human intervention, all by themselves in a dense swarm of traffic and you would have probably thought: “Ah. That is so far fetched, that I will never see that in my life. Even my kids won’t see them ever!”. Well, it turns out that we have all been proven wrong as these two conferences showed. Most major automotive companies and other tech giants showed versions of their self driving vehicles and while earlier one might have disregarded them as concept cars, fancy tricks and glamour bytes, today we are forced to acknowledge them.

Uber and Google have both successfully started rolling out their pilot versions on public roads in select US cities. Several other companies are following suit, in fact a total of 19 companies have set 2021 as the goal for having self driving cars on mainstream roads. There are still significant hurdles to cross including legislation, business models and safety, but it is only a matter of time before they are overcome. While 2021 might be ambitious and be off by a few years, it is still not that far away.

The day is close when we call a car from an app, sit inside, watch a movie, eat popcorn or listen to the news, all while being driven around by our virtual assistant and driver. Looks like cartoons like The Jetsons and Richie Rich are coming to life soon. I suggest that we buckle up and wait to enjoy the ride that the inevitable future has in store for us.

Originally published for the Dainik Bhaskar Group on 19th January, 2017.

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