Ever since the world has realized that the current modes of transportation need to be disrupted (I prefer the term “improved”) because we as humans are very bad drivers—with very little exceptions, so many companies have been focusing on getting existing cars an “extra brain”, turning our cars into “smart cars” and hence, building self-driving cars that are now so popular among technologists and futurists that hardly a week goes by without reading about Tesla’s level 5 autonomy (which in their language means full self-driving, without any human assistance), about Audi and BMW competing at Nürburgring to see which of their self-driving cars can set a new world record (Audi’s RS7 drove at a staggering 240 km/h without a human driver present in the car!) or our Japanese friends testing whether gas or electric self-driving cars are the most efficient in the long term.
And I admire their efforts and I eagerly await the day I will be able to commute without keeping my eyes in the road—but I would argue that the future of transportation lies with an industry that has long been more automated and has far more data to support faster progress: aeronautics.
And of course, that doesn’t mean flying cars, which, as tempting as might sound, are hardly feasible. But drones. Yes, the drones you see your children flying in the backyard, the drones you see at trade shows or the drones you see filming at concerts and festivals.
As you might have guessed, transportation means both goods and people. And when talking about product deliveries, there’s no way you didn’t hear about Amazon Prime Air, their famous drone delivery service. What you may *NOT* have heard of that in Japan drone delivery is already mainstream and companies like Rakuten are doing more drone deliveries than any other companies combined. As a matter of fact, several office buildings in Tokyo have the so-called “dronepads” where delivery drones drop packages and fly away.
Then there’s the matter of human transport—and one company that’s making wave is the Chinese drone maker Ehang, which up until recently made commercial drones—and that develops the EHANG 184, an autonomous aerial vehicle that is capable of transporting a person (yes, you read that right) on short and medium distances, in a fully autonomous mode. As a matter of fact, the Municipality of Dubai will start testing an autonomous taxi service using these exact drones starting in a couple of months!
Now, why do I say that I believe drones are the future of transportation and what does that have to do with our speciality, which is data exchange?
First of all, historically the aerial transportation industry has had an “unfair advantage” over the rest of the transportation-related industries: a unified system for collection, management and usage of data. When it comes to data exchange I think that the most elegant solutions are the simple and intuitive ones and we already have a great system in place to manage ai traffic control.
Imagine if the systems used in different countries to control air traffic would have been completely different!
Second, the skies are much more vast and open and I truly believe that our cities, which are now built around cars can be much improved if we switch to a greener, non-intrusive mode of transportation that still uses an old infrastructure.
And third, I think that it would help everyone’s mood and wellbeing to be able to travel in new and exciting ways, as out ancestors only dreamt about.
On the other hand though, I would love the challenge to build a data exchange system for self-driving cars that need to respect different traffic rules in different cities and countries and that have to “tell” other cars on the road (in the vicinity, in their country or why not, to the entire fleet) about driving conditions and contributing to a global intelligence grid. After all, we’ve already built such systems for the travel, hospitality and insurance industries already.