where academia meets practice in business education

Many automobile companies are now developing self-propelling and self-steering automobiles that transport passengers without any active human drivers. Last week, however, Tesla re-imagined this model by promising to introduce a different capability in its vehicles.

What did Tesla promise? By the end of this year, the firm will deliver software that enables their vehicles to drive to destinations without any human passengers at all. In other words, Tesla is promising to convert its vehicles into privately owned, land based, remotely piloted drones.

That’s right: cars without people. So what does that mean for the future of our society?

For starters, it probably means that our airlines will face a new mode of competition. After all, why should you bother to catch a flight from Boston to Miami when you could attach a trailer to an automobile drone and simply relax in your own bed and plush chair until you arrive in the Sunshine State?

It may also mean the immediate obsolescence of a current generation of internet firms. There would be no need to call Uber, for instance, to take you to a destination when you could call your parked car (where ever it happens to be parked, even many miles away) and instruct it to come for you.

And why would you ever need to visit Walmart? Or wait at home for an Amazon delivery? You could simply send your car to the store or the distribution center to pick up goods or packages, and to carry them home for you. You’d simply need to inform the retailer that your automobile is on its way.

Would these new lifestyle options be good for us, or bad for us? On the one hand, they would undoubtedly provide us with significant amounts of additional free time.

But on the other hand, what would we do with all that additional time? Would we remain isolated in our homes? Or in our mobile trailers, bouncing along the highway behind our Tesla drones? And would we spend even more time staring at our electronic devices and trolling social media?

At first glance, Tesla’s technological advance appears to promise fabulous lifestyle improvements. But its value, and its impact, will ultimately be determined by the manner in which we apply it.

Like it or not, such products and services will inevitably be introduced in our society. But we might want to ponder their consequences before we actually purchase them, and before we (quite naturally) grow addicted to them.

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