“And two years later, what come out? PlayStation 2.” – Ali G
Some predictions are linear – like that made by Sasha Baron Cohen’s character Ali G above. Sitting in 1993 it might have been disruptive to predict Sony’s entrance into the gaming console market. Nintendo and Sega were certainly impacted over the past 23 years. However, once we’d seen a PlayStation, extrapolating to predict an improved future PlayStation was not disruptive. It was linear assumption that included estimates about the commercial and technical roadmap in consumer electronics and gaming. Other predictions are less linear. Some predictions are truly disruptive.
Disruptions fit into certain categories. Disruptions have certain characteristics which improve their likelihood of; (i) spreading quickly, (ii) surprising, and (iii) creating effects which weren’t expected.
Looking at my own technology predictions at the end of 2015 – the only area I felt would be truly disruptive was Self Driving Cars (or Self Driving Automobiles, Autonomous Vehicles, etc.). There are a few areas where current media hype appears to anticipate something being ‘Big’, where I’m skeptical. I’m less impressed by the potential with drones than I was. While I feel I was too skeptical about 3D printing – it doesn’t feel as if it will be the consumer-level, household ownership, type invention that was once forecast.
Many areas where developments and technology are growing – software, payments, life science, etc. feel more linear in their development than they feel disruptive. Eradication of cancer, creating longer lives with better health, automating financial services and improving computational power are all important and significant. When those innovations arrive, will we really be surprised?
Self Driving Vehicles will be Disruptive
The arrival of self driving cars feels like it will have impact beyond what we currently anticipate based on a past list of components that increase the probability of a technology being disruptive. A simple scoring of “1” for each of the 12 items on the list leads to a total of 11/12. Such vehicles are easily ‘inserted’ into the current global infrastructure. All it takes is one municipality, one buyer and user demand. Once inserted, autonomous vehicle should find ready penetration once they work.
It isn’t clear if there is Compound/Geometric behavior in vehicle networks – but it seems entirely possible that a small addition of such vehicles, if they are truly safer, could have a huge impact on overall road safety. Emergent Behavior simply means that many of a thing may behave very differently than just one of a thing. This certainly seems possible. Fleets of autonomous vehicles available for users could create dramatically different driving, travel and transportation behavior than what is currently done.
There are three areas where current inertia around intelligent vehicles provides the technology with the power to truly disrupt. The supply chain is massive, fragmented, and all in pursuit of this concept. The components for this innovation may already be in place. Further, these are big players who are persistent – if there is resistance or failures, they will continue to pursue their goals.
Lastly, the vehicles are being designed to be reverse compatible with the existing traffic infrastructure. Google’s push to modify the vehicle, rather than requiring the modification of millions of miles of roadway, has shown that this is possible.