The solar singularity: 5 ways new technology is devouring the old

#5 Autonomous vehicles powered by the sun

Autonomous (self-driving) vehicles have arrived and they’re here to stay.  They’re already helping us mine for resources and will soon be connecting us to the internet.   The pace of change here is happening fast - just this week it was announced that Google’s Titan drones would take flight within months.   The reason for making autonomous drones that provide internet connectivity solar-powered is obvious - the fuel is free and they can then run continuously with minimal intervention, but its not the only place where we’re seeing innovation and the other has much wider implications.

Some autonomous drones using solar power will be able to fly for years without refueling

Tesla, Google and maybe even Apple are shaping the future of electric vehicles and they’ve made their stance clear on fossil fuels

Two big trends are happening in the automobile industry, the first is the move to more fuel efficient cars.  Today, the emissions from an electric car vary a lot depending on where you live, based on whether you are getting electricity from a grid powered by coal or one that draws its power from sources like solar, wind, nuclear or hydro.  The good news is that many grids around the world are getting greener and solar is playing an ever-increasing role in the mix.  The other big trend is the move to autonomous vehicles.  There are predictions that the changes to the automobile industry due to the rollout autonomous vehicles might be one of the most disruptive ever to the American economy.   

The sale of electric cars are taking off around the world.  Fully autonomous, electric vehicles wlll be the next to follow.  Credit: Wikimedia

The disruption is going to happen when you bring these two trends together.  The dynamic players pushing the autonomous vehicle trend are going to be major factors here - Tesla, Google and maybe even Apple are shaping the future of electric vehicles and they’ve made their stance clear on fossil fuels.  They want a renewable energy-powered future and just like they are driving change with their data centers (as you'll see later) they’ll do it with their vehicles - thereby reshaping the industry.  For many incumbents in the automobile industry that are struggling as it is - this will be one more nail in the coffin.  This won’t just have a benefit in terms of emissions - the fossil fuel subsidies for transport in developing countries put an incredible strain on economies.   

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