Despite living in a small town with limited services and having a lifetime love of cars, I didn’t get my license until fairly late in life. In fact, I was in my early thirties with two kids before I became a licensed driver. I think that at least partly because of that, I have a strong love of driving. After so many years of having somebody else drive me around, being behind the wheel feels like freedom.
But for many, driving is a hassle rather than a pleasure. In fact, my younger sister absolutely hates driving and only does so when she has to. She thinks that the entire concept of hurtling down a highway at high speeds and trusting everyone else on the road to be responsible enough to keep you safe is crazy.
Our two different attitudes are my own first-hand experience of larger global attitudes about driving, vehicles and transportation in general. And recently I had the chance to explore some of those attitudes, and what they might mean in the future, while in Detroit with Ford Canada at the North American International Auto Show.
The event kicked off with a delicious dinner at Ford Field. Having the chance to tour the stadium, see the locker rooms of the players and even attempt kicking a field goal was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’ll never forget. I probably should have worn different shoes, but I still had a blast even though I didn’t score our Canadian crew an extra three points!
But as much fun as the dinner and exploration of Ford Field was, it was the talk from Ford Futurist Sheryl Connelly that really captivated my attention. Ford is constantly looking forward to ensure that it’s ready to meet the changing needs of its customers and with some of the micro and macro trends developing around the world, that means monumental changes are starting to take place in the transportation sector.
So what does that mean for the average family with young children and likely aging parents as well? For one thing, it means that owning a vehicle and driving a vehicle may very soon not be synonymous. As of January 1 of this year, Ontario has started allowing the testing of self-driving vehicles on its roads. As these autonomous vehicles are perfected and refined, driving is likely going to become less and less necessary.
For some, that may seem like a catastrophe. I’ve already mentioned how much I love driving and I’m definitely not the only one. So many of us have that inner vision of cruising in a convertible along an open road through picturesque landscape as the wind blows through our hair. Who would want to give up that joy?
But for others, autonomous vehicles mean freedom as much as driving means freedom to me. Our aging population and constantly increasing life expectancy mean that more and more seniors may soon face decades of still being able to care for themselves, yet not being able to drive. For those citizens, a self-driving car means the freedom of mobility without having to depend on the good will of friends or family members. And in countries with high populations, where driving in major cities almost invariably means traffic jams, gridlocks and accidents, self-driving cars may very well be the answer to a problem that seemed unsolvable.
If you have mixed feelings about autonomous vehicles, you’re not alone. But Ford believes that they are going to play a big role in our future, and I’m inclined to agree. Personally, I think that the coming years will lead to a combination of traditional and autonomous cars on the road, to the benefit of everyone. There will likely be a few hiccups in the process and the occasional bump along the way, but the potential benefits of autonomous vehicles are so high that there’s no doubt in my mind they’ll eventually become a common sight on Canadian roads.
Getting the chance to eat delicious food, spend time with fellow Canadian bloggers and take part in exclusive behind-the-scenes moments was a great perk to attending the #FordNAIAS event, but the best part of the trip for me was learning about the future of the Ford Motor Company and driving in general. Whether or not you would ever buy a self-driving car, the vehicles will likely be playing a part in your future in one way or another. And I can’t wait to see how Ford takes part in this upcoming revolution of driving!