Back To The Future
Fairlady|September 2017

It’s just seven years since the first iPad was launched. What technology will we take for granted within another seven years? Professor Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, says we’re on the verge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, characterised by new technologies that will have a profound impact on every aspect of our lives. It could be exciting – or not. Here’s a peek at a few of the big changes that are already in motion.

Anna Rich & Liesl Robertson

Who’s gonna drive you home tonight?

Your next car might drive itself. Don’t believe it? Every second car manufacturer has promised a driverless car by, for some reason, the year 2021. Last year, Ford said it would release one without a steering wheel. Soon after, Volvo and Uber announced their collaboration. Then in June this year, Audi announced it would be launching a series of cars with varying levels of autonomous driving technology. BMW is taking it right up to level five autonomy, which means no human intervention is needed.

In the meantime, in Lyon, France, two electric driverless buses tootle around at a sedate 10km per hour. They run near a tramway, as the tech isn’t quite there to allow them to weave in and out of traffic.

Over in the US, all eyes are on Tesla. CEO Elon Musk is ahead of the 2021 pack: ‘We’ll be able to do a demonstration guide of full autonomy all the way from home in LA to Times Square in New York, then have the car park itself by the end of next year,’ he said.

The year in question is this year. That’s right, 2017.

Progress, unfortunately, isn’t without hitches. In May last year, Joshua Brown, who had previously proudly posted a video of his Tesla driverless car avoiding a collision, became the first person to die in a self-driving vehicle. He was on autopilot on a Florida highway when the sensors failed to pick up a huge truck and trailer in the path: the white paintwork didn’t show up against the bright sky. Tesla said it was the only known fatality in just over 209 million km on autopilot. ‘Autopilot is getting better all the time, but it isn’t perfect and still requires the driver to remain alert.’

Still there’s no disputing that autopilot supports safety. Globally, road accidents claim 1,25 million lives year, says the World Health Organisation. It’s estimated that driverless cars could reduce the number of accidents by 90%. Bring on the day.

Just say the word

Meet Amazon’s Echo, a device that’s always listening out for you, waiting to do your bidding. This UK user’s (shortened) review provides a glimpse into ‘her’ capabilities:

‘Plug Alexa into my kitchen. Download Alexa App on iPhone. By the time the app has downloaded, Alexa’s sci-ficircular top light is glowing orange and I connect her to my Wi-Fi. This has taken less than a minute. Alexa announces she’s now connected.

“Alexa, hello,” I whisper in stunned awe and expectation.

“Hello,” Alexa responds, perhaps rather nonchalantly.

“What is the weather like today?” “The weather today will be

8 degrees and overcast, with a chance of sunshine later on.”

I glance at my wife and kids. This is a new dawn in the technical age.

Two hours later: I’ve linked Alexa to my Spotify account, to Audible, and have updated her skills to include my preferred news bulletins. I can now ask Alexa to play music, artists, songs or to read my latest Audible book.

Four hours later: downside. My eldest daughter (5) has cottoned on to the “new miracle” in the kitchen and has developed an imperious style of talking to her. She demands jokes. They’re not too bad, thankfully. Little Mix’s “Black Magic” has been played 335 times so far, followed by Abba’s “Honey Honey” and “Mamma Mia”. Unfortunately I have no way of getting Alexa to sanction particular songs. Yet.’

The same reviewer gives an update after the novelty has worn off. ‘There are certainly improvements to be made. But it’s fully updatable/futureproof and I’m positive we won’t find

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