Brian Fung spotted an interesting pattern in a new national Pew Research survey out this week looking at how Americans perceive the future of technology. As part of the survey, Pew asked 1,001 adults this open-ended question: “If there was one futuristic invention that you could own, what would it be?”
About 9 percent of the respondents went with some kind of cure for diseases (which was maybe not a direct answer to the actual question). But here are some of the next most popular answers: time machines, flying cars and flying bikes, personal space craft, self-driving cars, and teleporters. In short, people are looking for fantastical solutions to the otherwise mundane problem of getting around. When we try to envision how technology might significantly improve our lives, a lot of us are thinking about transportation.
Of all of those inventions, autonomous cars are the closest to reality. Google is already piloting prototypes on California highways. And the federal government is already planning regulation for “vehicle to vehicle” communication technology, a feature that will be essential to autonomous cars as they ping signals back and forth to each other and to the infrastructure around them (in the absence of human command). There are a lot of logistics and technical details that will still take years to work out, but the ubiquitous autonomous car is a lot closer than the time machine.