Imagine it is the year 2047 and you are driving from Toronto to Vancouver. What will the experience be like? How will it be different than today? Here are some possible ways.
First of all, you don't own your car. You have rented it for the weekend from your car share club. You can count on one hand how many people you know that own a personal vehicle.
The car has an electric motor, not a gasoline or diesel engine. There are still some large diesel transport trucks around, but most passenger vehicles are now electric. And except for a few metal parts -- the car is mostly made of a flexible but durable plastic, making it very light and comfortable. Even the windshield and windows are plastic.
The car is self-driving, so you can set the navigator, sit back and close your eyes if you want. Or you can glance out the window to catch glimpses of the frequent wind and solar farms. Even though the car is self-driving you still can't drink alcohol while behind the wheel, so you lean back and have a low-carb juice drink instead.
Every now and then you glance at the charge meter which indicates how many kilometres you can travel on the current battery. Next to it is a small screen indicating the distance and directions to the nearest service stations. You decide to pull into the closest one, so you click on it on the screen. The car does the rest of the work.
There is an electrical shop where the mechanic's bay used to be, with a handful of electricians looking under the hood of another car.
The service station
You pull into a solar energy service station, which consists of a utility building and attached convenience store surrounded by an open parking lot. On the roof of the building is a large solar panel mounted on a movable frame so the panel always faces toward the sun. There is an electrical shop where the mechanic's bay used to be, with a handful of electricians looking under the hood of another car. There are cables connecting the car to a computer, and the electricians talk about resetting various functions.
You get out of your car and walk around to the side where today a gas tank cap would be. You twist and turn a handle and pull. Out comes a cylinder about the half the length of baseball bat. It's the car battery.
You walk into the convenience store and up to the self-serve battery counter. You drop your car battery into a slot on the counter and put your credit/debit card into another slot and. After a few seconds and some soft clanking noises, a freshly charged battery pops out of a chamber in the counter. It is not the same battery you put in the slot, but it is the same type. You remove your credit/debit card, grab the new battery by the handle, and return to your car. You insert the new battery in its compartment and twist it to lock it in place. You are good to go for another 500 kilometres.
You decide to stretch your legs before you get back in the car, so you take a stroll around. Only then do you notice the gasoline and diesel tanks in the far back corner along with the propane tanks. There are a few trucks there filling up, but it is a relatively deserted area.
You reach into your breast pocket and pull out a Slim Tim power bar and munch on it while listening to the new song by Mick Jagger III coming from your car stereo. You glance at your phone/watch/camera/heart monitor device and decide it's time to get back on the road. You jump in your car, re-confirm your destination coordinates, and as the car pulls out onto the highway you blue-tooth call your mom to let her know you are OK. Some things never change.
Digital markers create pop-up weather, traffic flow and other travel advisory notifications on your computer screen when you pass over them.
The new main highway has an asphalt veneer over a plastic bed. Inserted in the bed are thermal lines to keep the roads at an optimal temperature; digital markers that create pop-up weather, traffic flow and other travel advisory notifications on your computer screen when you pass over them; and illumination bands that light up at night.
Your car's sensor reads the various speed signs (which get fewer every year) and warn you if you are travelling too fast. Your cruise control has an optional function that allows you to automatically match your speed to the recommended speed. You can override this function, but a record of this will be kept on your car's black box, which will be made available to your insurance company in the event of a collision or accident.
After a few days of this you finally get to Vancouver. Your pull into your friend's neighbourhood and your car's computer automatically scans the real-time parking data to find the nearest parking spot. Not surprisingly, it is a stall in a multi-storey parking garage three blocks away. You click on your screen to reserve the space for the next 10 minutes (your credit card is charged).
You pull into the main gate of the parkade and the empty stall is waiting right there for you. You pull into it, turn the car off, get your belongings out and step out off the stall. You press a button on the nearby wall and whoosh, the stall and your car drop into the floor and out of sight, replaced with a new empty stall on a conveyor belt for the next customer.
In a few day's time it's time to leave, so you go to the parkade, press a different button on the wall and tap your credit card on a sensor. After some whirring and rumbling, the conveyor brings your car to the surface.
You get in and drive out the exit gate and back to Toronto.
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