It’s becoming more apparent every day, the motorcycle parked in your garage is nothing more than a fossil fuel recreational vehicle, along with the internal combustion powered car, truck or boat. With automation removing the driver from practically every self propelled vehicle, it looks like our days of being in control are numbered. If electric driverless cars are all you notice, you’re missing what’s happening all around and it’s happening fast.
Look beyond electric cars and the inroads they’re making. Those massive mining dump trucks that already run without a driver are converting to electric power. Tesla is going to unveil their electric semi tractor later this month, but Cummins already made their electric powertrain debut with their AEOS semi demonstrator, which includes technology for vehicle to vehicle communication including capabilities for platooning on the highway with other trucks. Electric transit buses will be here very quickly in large numbers. Even airplanes are climbing onto the electric bandwagon, though I think that transition will take longer, but they’ve had autopilot for a long time. When we look back, not many years from now, the transition to driverless electric vehicles will seem to have come, as Ernest Hemingway famously once said, “Gradually, then suddenly.”
Rio Tinto, the Australian mining company that runs those automated dump trucks, just had the first run of their automated freight train for carrying iron ore. Don’t forget the Case self driving farm tractors, too. If you think there is a long time yet before you’ll see the impact in your daily life, think again.
The combination of electric power for more and more vehicles and the introduction of self-driving technology is accelerating. I think it was the advance of electric truck technology that finally made me realize how quickly one breakthrough after another was hitting the road. Several auto manufacturers have announced their entire lineup will either be electric or have an option for electric power in a relatively short time frame.
Internal combustion still has a long time to run, but our entire idea of what a recreational vehicle is may have to change. In the future, just driving any vehicle ourselves will be considered recreation. Powering it with fossil fuel may become the exception for special cases rather than the rule. So, welcome to the brave new world of the FFRV, the Fossil Fuel Recreational Vehicle, followed soon after with restrictions on where they can operate.