Of Teleportation and Self-Driving Cars

When we read about teleportation, we think “Beam me up, Scotty!” ala Star Trek.  Teleportation is no easy task, some would say it is rocket science or more.  Well, it is at up till recently pure sci-fi, until scientists were able to teleport a quantum of data.

Most recently, in July 2017, Chinese scientists set the Record for the Farthest Quantum Teleportation.

Chinese scientists have just shattered a record in teleportation. No, they haven’t beamed anyone up to a spaceship. Rather, they sent a packet of information from Tibet to a satellite in orbit, up to 870 miles (1,400 kilometers) above the Earth’s surface.

https://www.space.com/37506-quantum-teleportation-record-shattered.html

While teleportation of living organism, especially sentient ones, is still some way to go, teleportation of material objects maybe in the foreseeable future.  A few key pieces of technology still need to be invented though, like a way to digitise every quantum bits of material, and do it fast enough such that we can use it effectively as a form of transport technology.  The first breakthrough is how to digitise one quantum of any material, the remaining part is improving the process.

A little like how the first digital camera takes 23 seconds to create one photo that is 0.01 megapixel

The World’s First Digital Camera by Kodak and Steve Sasson

Ok, so if all that is done, then what?  I say, go for the low lying fruit.  If Teleportation of Inanimate Object (TIO) is possible and is commercialised, supply chain, logistics and its line of support industries will go through massive shake out.

Imagine, ordering from Taobao and not waiting for a week or two for delivery, but a few minutes for them to teleport the item to your home or nearest TIO kiosk.

Groceries?  Done.  Shopping?  Done.  Travelling?  Check in your luggage and it will be shipped via the TIO terminal.  Your luggage will be waiting for you at your destination.

What has this to do with cars?

Imagine driving to work or shopping and not have to find parking?  Reached your destination and check in your car to the TIO parking station.  Your car will be teleported to some remote part of Singapore or the world.  Perhaps some offshore floating TIO barges or something.  Maybe a TIO warehouse in some off-world planet?  Costs more to transport, but cheaper to store.

No more parking lots needed throughout CDB or residential areas.  When you are done, just collect your car from the TIO parking station and drive off.

Just imagine.

But wait, what about self-driving cars?

While teleportation of macro objects is still some years or decades away, self-driving cars (SDCs) are already a reality.  With Tesla, BMW, Volvo and practically most major car manufacturers clamouring to have a hand in this new area, self-driving technology is experiencing a boost like never before.

https://www.theverge.com/2016/9/22/13019688/singapore-self-driving-car-nutonomy-grab-ride-hail-test

https://www.smartnation.sg/initiatives/Mobility/self-driving-vehicles-sdvs–future-of-mobility-in-singapore

While tesla has been receiving flak for its self-driving horror stories, it is a question of when and not if, self-driving technology can be solved.  It is here and will only get better.

TESLA NOW HAS another fatality to hang on its semi-autonomous driving system. The company just revealed that its Autopilot feature was turned on when a Model X SUV slammed into a concrete highway lane divider and burst into flames on the morning of Friday, March 23. The driver, Wei Huang, died shortly afterwards at the hospital.

https://www.wired.com/story/tesla-autopilot-self-driving-crash-california/

While it is all fun and cool to have the car drive itself, we should know that between take off and landing, commercial planes have been flying and navigating by themselves for decades already, with pilots monitoring and on alert.

Beyond the fanfare of self-driving cars, what does it do for us?

Solving Parking

Compared to teleportation, self-driving becomes a lot more down-to-earth.  With self-driving car, one could instruct our cars to park at other areas that are cheaper and not in the city area (CDB).  Or better still, what about a grab-mode for cars?  When you arrive at work, why not get your car to work for you?  Activate grab-mode and your car can go out and make some bucks for you while you work, instead of bleeding parking fees.

Think about all the cars that are sitting in parking lots every single day.  This would be a thing of the past.  Parking lots might well become a page in city planning history.  Why have parking lots when perhaps cars do not need to ever park except perhaps after 12am?  Would we all need to own a car to begin with?  What we are concerned about is transport, getting from point A to point B.  It’s like buying groceries.  We don’t really need to experience the going through aisle and queuing up at the cashier counters.  In fact, we would rather choose not to have that.  Now, I do know a friend or two who enjoy the NTUC experience and it is therapeutic for them.  And so they do not use redmart or honestbee.

With SDCs, we solve transport without the hassle of driving, parking and car ownership.  Perhaps this can then mean that we really keep car population to a reasonable cap while making cars available to most Singaporeans at an affordable price.

There will be those who still want to get their hands dirty and want to drive themselves around, feel the wind in their hair and breathe in the smog … haha

So there could be multi-tiers of car users

Tier #1 – Conventional car owners.  Buys a car and is still subject to COE.
Tier #2 – SDCs that open for Grab services, and can be owned by individuals, state-owned or by companies like Grab or cooperatives by grassroots or communities.

Cars under Tier #1 can be charged a premium while Tier #2 should be made much more affordable as it becomes more like public transport.  This can reduce ownership of cars.

Car owners under Tier #2 would own cars but would contribute their cars to a Grab pool for other users’ usage but have priority access to their cars.  Not everyone will buy this idea, and there could be a potential loss in revenue from COE, but it can potentially improve the overall transport experience.

After all what we need is transport, not cars.

Think about it.