So, we all know it’s Back to the Future day, and we’ve had plenty of content about DeLoreans and the movie’s predictions from 30 years ago. But now it’s time for some fresh new predictions for what we can expect, automotively, 30 years from now. Many of these used a remarkable new process called “making shit up,” and I think you’ll be pleased with the results.
Using the Jalopnik mainframe interfaced to some residue of a Klondike bar that I’m pretty sure is quantumly-entangled with a similar bit of refuse from 2045, we’ve come up with a list of 30 predictions that I’d say are all but guaranteed to come true. I suggest printing these out and checking them off as they happen so when we meet in some methadone clinic sometime in the future, you can whip that out and we can all enjoy a good chuckle together. Then, we’ll hug.
So, here we go. Thirty predictions of what the car world will see sometime in the upcoming thirty years:
1. About 25% of cars on the road will be fully autonomous.
2. About 1% of cars on the road will be driverless, but not autonomous. Mostly due to bad parking brakes.
3. Tweels will finally be in common usage, mostly on delivery vehicles and other service trucks and vans.
4. The first cases of people getting out of DUI charges (stopped at a checkpoint) because they were in autonomous cars will have happened, leading to proposals to modify DUI laws to be a lesser charge for people in self-driving cars.
5. The US will finally have legal laser headlights, right as Europe starts implementing some kind of quantum lights or something.
6. A new indicator light, possibly green, will be required for autonomous cars, and will be on when the car is in pure autonomous mode. These will be mounted centrally, front and rear, at the base of the windshield and rear window.
7. Electric-car charging networks will be mature and reasonably extensive in most US cities and along major highways. Special rest stop complexes will open to take advantage of the longer ‘linger time’ people will spend recharging cars.
8. One common electric-car charging standard will be developed and used by all electric car makers, including Tesla. Oh, unless Apple does in fact come out with a car, because they’ll have their own stupid cable that’s technically better but way too expensive and aftermarket ones never seem to goddamn work.
9. The act of using a RealDoll or similar sex doll to fill the driver’s seat in an autonomous car (a person in the driver’s seat is still required in many states) will be so well known it’ll have a slang term like “Dollying” or “Riding the Rubber Lady.”
10. The Otis elevator company will leverage their decades of electric-motor-related work by becoming one of the biggest makers of replacement, high-performance electric motors for cars. Seeing big POWERED BY OTIS stickers on cars will be a defining trait of Tric culture.
11. Oh, yeah, I should explain. ‘Tric’ culture (from electric) will be a new automotive subgroup of electric car tuners, with their own distinctive look that includes spark-throwing devices, vivid blue EL-illuminated stripes, and exposed battery packs.
12. Auto insurance companies will offer tiered coverage, with separate (much lower) rates for autonomous car owners.
13. Vintage/Classic car enthusiasts and people who still want to drive (or have to) their own cars (modern or classic) will find themselves a much more engaged, cohesive group as pressure to make more cars autonomous increases. This will form an interesting alliance of genuine car enthusiasts and people too poor to afford new autonomous cars.
14. There will still be human-driven cars for sale, but they will be either sporting cars targeted at driving enthusiasts, work trucks, specialized off-roading cars and trucks, or the cheapest entry-level vehicles. Even after 30 years, autonomous technology will still command a bit of a premium.
15. There will be a few companies that specialize in adapting self-driving systems to vintage cars, but these conversions will remain expensive and fairly uncommon. They will be big status symbols, though, with at least one attendee to the 2041 Oscars (America’s then-favorite actress, a cybernetically re-animated and artificially-youthenized Cloris Leachman) showing up in an autonomously-driving 1966 VW Microbus.
16. Brake lights will be required to have blinking brake-pressure indicator functionality, which proves to help curb traffic accidents.
17. By 2045, a number of autonomous car viruses and widespread hacks have already occurred, with a number of deaths as a result, mostly in the early period of widespread autonomous cars. All autonomous cars now are legally required to respond to an emergency-broadcast shutdown command when a security breach of a given magnitude is detected by the US Department of Autonomous Transportation.
The system is not popular and is very disruptive, but is so far the only guaranteed way to prevent injuries or death.
18. Both human-driven and autonomous cars are required to send telemetry information to the connected car network.
19. Diesels do make a comeback, primarily in the context of range-extending generators on electric cars.
20. Chinese cars are common in the US, and the Buick marque is more strongly associated with China than America.
21. A freak lightning strike to a Geely autonomous car in Beijing will grant the car a limited degree of sentience, and a small but dedicated cult will grow around the car, which has established a compound in the ruins of the Avatamsaka Temple outside of the city. Cultists are working to replicate the effect on other stolen autonomous cars in hopes of sparking an automotive ‘emancipation,’ and may have achieved sentience in a second car, which is being prepared as a consort for the original Geely.
22. Classic and Vintage cars will go up in value dramatically, largely in part to them being sought after by the Russian and Andorran mafias, who value them for their inability to be tracked electronically.
23. Groups of non-criminal autonomous car hackers and artists will spring up, seeking to make cars perform coreographed dances, enact plays and performances, imitate animal behavior, and more.
24. Commonplace 3D printing technology will let people download and print nearly any car part they need, in a wide variety of materials, including plastics, metals, and carbon composites. There will be privately-run enthusiast libraries of parts (original and modified) for vintage cars and modern cars.
25. In very urban areas (think New York, London, San Francisco, Tokyo, etc) up to 65% of car owners will have given up their cars for membership in autonomous car-usage clubs. Each club will have a distinctive style and color for their cars, and will largely replace taxis as the dominant vehicular traffic of these dense cities.
26. By 2040, over half of the states in the US will permit completely unmanned private autonomous vehicles, with a federal law making it legal nationwide expected within 10 years. Long-haul trucks and other delivery vehicles have been completely and legally unmanned since 2030.
27. Saab will make a comeback, as a human-driven-only brand when the name and associated rights were purchased by an organization of enthusiasts, helped with a generous donation from the George Society, an anti-Camaro doomsday cult founded by Patrick George and his spirit-wives. They have a great working relationship with the Geely cult, and even help with their Kinja page.
28. Car HVAC systems will be subscription-based much like satellite radio is now. Cars will come with a generic, limited HVAC unit that can be greatly expanded by subscribing to one of many ‘in-car climate and weather’ services. These services do include extensive scent and air-freshening options.
29. Mercedes announces that the G-Wagen will go out of production by the end of 2045, due to the body press stamping machines’ plan to commit mass suicide.
30. By 2045, Jalopnik will be entirely run on a mainframe made from Jason Torchinsky’s partially-damaged brain floating in a jar full of Diet Cheerwine and a thick, glowing gel.
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