Hailing a cab can be a frustrating experience, especially if you’re in a hurry or the weather is bad. Then, once you finally find a cab there is the lurking anxiety about the cab driver—Will he drive safely? Will he talk too much? Will he drive me to the wrong place? With one elegant app, Uber was able to eliminate all of these frustrations, while also adding powerful levels of user experience that people didn’t even know they wanted, like the ability to see where the cab is while you wait, seamless payments, and a driver rating system.
However, as transformative as the Uber app is, it represents just the first salvo in a rapidly evolving “transportation cloud” in which the ubiquitous culture of car ownership is about to be disrupted. The autonomous car, long the province of science fiction movies, is now moving forward at an accelerated pace, with Google recently announcing that they anticipate autonomous cars on the road by 2020!
In fact, entrepreneur and futurist Zack Kanter believes that “autonomous cars will be common by 2025 and have a near monopoly by 2030, and the sweeping change they bring will eclipse every other innovation our society has experienced. They will cause unprecedented job loss and a fundamental restructuring of our economy, solve large portions of our environmental problems, prevent tens of thousands of deaths per year, save millions of hours with increased productivity, and create entire new industries that we cannot even imagine from our current vantage point.”
While time will tell if Kanter’s accelerated timeframes are accurate, there’s no denying that cars, computing, and smartphones are on a high-speed, highly serendipitous collision course. Many bystanders are also going to feel the impact of these changes, especially those in the healthcare system.
1). Autonomous Aging
For an increasingly aging population, hands-free autonomous driving is going to offer a tremendous extension of freedom and mobility, as well as more seamless and worry-free access to care providers.
2). Disabilities Transformed
For persons with disabilities, autonomous vehicles will literally be life-altering. In fact, the first demo of a Google driverless car on public streets was with a blind person behind the wheel!
3). Healthcare Services On-demand
As the transportation cloud transforms how we move around, an equally powerful “healthcare cloud” will provide near instantaneous access to healthcare services, based on passive monitoring and continuous feedback. Backed by Uber-like scheduling platforms, healthcare professionals will be more efficient based on smart appointment algorithms, mobile reminders, and decreased patient wait times. If and when you do need emergency services, cloud-based transportation will have the ambulance at your house in seconds.
4). Commuting Actually Becomes Therapeutic
Now that you are not driving, commute time can include preventative treatment and inspiration on the way to work in the morning, and relaxation and decompression on the way home. Vitals signs can be monitored from the car seat, and recommendations made for meals, exercise, etc. Medication reminders can also be reviewed during the drive, as well as Skype calls with members of your care team.
5). Hands-free Driving Creates a Healthier Environment
Autonomous driving holds the promise of fewer accidents, which will obviously result in fewer deaths and injuries on the road. Furthermore, autonomous car fleets will likely be electric, resulting in less air pollution and lower incidence of respiratory conditions.
Transportation and healthcare are on a serendipitous collision course of radical change, and the impact is going to be transformative for both patients and providers. There will be inevitable disruptions to existing businesses and occupations as these changes take place, but new opportunities will arise as well. As we spend less time behind the wheel, we will have more time to tend to our fitness and well-being. When we do need to interact directly with healthcare providers, the experience will be far less time-consuming and stressful. Most of all, for the elderly and disabled, the rapidly evolving transportation cloud is going to provide new levels of mobility and quality of life.
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