A silver Audi Pop.up.Next concept car and drone with NYC in the back at night

Are We Looking Too Far Forward?


Audi recently unveiled its concept of the ‘Pop.up.Next’, a fusion of self-driving electric car and passenger drone which they expect to have on the market within the next decade. Partnering with Airbus, this next wave of on-demand metropolitan taxi is being tests in Europe and South America, confirming that its a viable avenue which Audi is exploring.

Fiction of the 20th Century, be it film, television, comic books or classic literature showed displayed an almost insatiable fixation on depicting the future. From flying cars and instant food to personal communication, these depictions evolved into something almost paradoxical, inspiring the very creations they predicted. And while this very natural extension of the human spirit continues to this very day, the exponential increase in technology over the last two decades has left us feeling (more than ever) that we truly are on the precipice of the future.

Having reported our fair share of stories on the race to autonomous driving, we’ve reported some of the aggressive timelines laid out by automakers. And now that we’ve crossed over into 2019, there’s some newfound perspective in Tesla and BMW’s adamant statement that each expects a fully-tested offering to hit the streets by 2020. Even more alarming is the widespread belief that autonomous vehicles will be sharing our streets and roadways by 2025. And while full integration is still a ways off, how far off is it? Ten years? Twenty?

And while the thought of a bunch of self-driving vehicles delivering us to either (a) our intended destination or (b) our unexpected demise, might seem like a dilemma, we almost have to place our faith in the technology and rules which govern it. A lofty ask, for sure. But, as the meme says, twenty years ago we were told never to get in a car with a stranger, and now there’s Uber. As a society, we’ve proven time and time again that our willingness to accept change is driven by two things: evolution of the norm, and convenience. Not convinced? Do you own an Alexa? Does your phone unlock with a fingerprint? What about Snapchat filters that work on facial recognition, or submission of your DNA to learn more about your ancestry? A decade ago, we would have scoffed at such ideas, and yet here we are.

So, what’s next? According to iconic luxury automaker Aston Martin, we’ll be taking to the air and ocean. In the last year, the century-old automaker has revealed two new concepts: one in the form of a small personal aircraft, and one in the form of a small personal…submarine?

All jokes aside, the airborne Volante Vision and submersible ‘Project Neptune’ are very real expressions of both freedom and wealth that are in development at Aston Martin.

According to Laura Schwab, President of Aston Martin the Americas, “Aston Martin is working on ways to facilitate futuristic travel for its customers, many of which are known for wanting to head to an exotic locale on a moment’s notice. Personal flight will give our customers a new dimension of freedom, beyond the luxury of today’s private air travel,” adding “Who would want to live a life without that?”

And while Aston Martin makes no claims that either of these vehicles will hit sales floors any time in the near future, it begs the question “how soon is too soon’? And in asking that question we’re forced to hold the scary mirror of time up to our own faces.

What if autonomous vehicles were, in fact, the norm in twenty years? Well, as of Tuesday, January 1st it’s been twenty years since 1999. That leaves us two decades removed from Y2K, and nearly the same distance from the events of September 11th. Simply put, how quickly did that time go by? And knowing that the next twenty years will only move faster, are you ready for the changes that might very well come in your own timeline? Considering how quickly you find yourself checking the Terms of Agreement for everything form social media to Spotify, it’s easy to see quickly things can change with little-or-no recognition.

For those of us who live to see the events of 2039 unfold, it will certainly be an eye-opening experience. For better or worse, our dependance on technology grows every day, sometimes by choice and sometimes by force. And our willingness to accept that change will continue to come as a result of the convenience offered by that technology, and its acceptance as part of the norm. Either way, nothing feels that impossible anymore. So, don’t be surprised someday, when your grandchild says they want a personal submarine for Christmas. And don’t say we didn’t warn you.