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The Future of American Roads

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Submitted by Trevor Brian Free on 22/02/2020

America has long been defined by its highways and its car culture. Almost everyone in America has cars integrated into their daily lives – whether it’s just a means for them to get from here to there, a restoration project, or having the pleasure of being at the wheel of the ultimate driving machine for a joy ride – most people really enjoy having them and it’s almost impossible to imagine an America without them. Cars have long been a status symbol for those able to afford them, and thus, they have been hot commodities for decades. Interestingly though, the general way in which we interact with cars hasn’t changed all that much over this time. We have always driven cars in the same way and have had the same thought of what cars can offer – freedom. Cars provide the opportunity for anybody to go anywhere they want – the ultimate expression of American freedom – which is why I believe they have been one of the cornerstones of the American way of life since they hit mainstream prominence in the Post-War Era.

With this in mind, I think it’s important that we look toward the future to see the trends of the industry that will define how American highways are used by cars. I believe that once the two major breakthroughs of fully electric vehicles and semi-autonomous vehicles are economically viable for companies and people alike, they will dominate the American roads of the future and continue to provide the freedom that’s so desired along with the environmentally friendly conscious trends of today.

You might be thinking “But electric cars are already available. Why haven’t they taken off yet?” Well, unsurprisingly, the answer is that electric cars are expensive. In 2020, a Tesla Model 3 costs almost $40,000, putting it out of the range of viability for many who would like to own one. But there is good news: Tesla isn’t the only company producing electric cars. Companies like BMW, Volkswagen, and Chevrolet have their own electric cars that are cheaper than Tesla’s products. And as more and more companies compete, the prices will drop because of competition, putting electric cars in the price range for middle class families. The main factor keeping the price up right now is that high quality batteries are very expensive. But over time, innovations will occur, and batteries will become better and cheaper, which will lead to more electric cars on the roads.

China currently accounts for more than half of worldwide electric car sales (McKinsey & Company, 2019), and thus they lead the world in that aspect. I think it is only a matter of time until America makes up its share of the world market for electric vehicle consumption. I predict that by 2050, there will be more electric vehicles on the roads than gasoline powered cars. Electric cars have far less of an impact on the environment than gasoline powered cars because they don’t spew out carbon monoxide and other greenhouse gasses. It is only a matter of time until Americans switch to electric cars. Now, this won’t be an overnight switch, of course, but it will surely be the future of American roads. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see certain roads with overhead cables to connect to electric cars and charge them as they drive.

Some may say “People won’t connect to overhead cables; it would be too hard to connect consistently.” That’s a perfectly valid point. People won’t consistently connect. But semi-autonomous vehicles and eventually, self-driving cars, can take the hard work out of connecting cars to an electric system on the roads. There is plenty of talk regarding the safety of self-driving cars today, but I predict that in a few decades, they will be a common sight, at least on highways where there are little to no pedestrians. Even in my town of Gainesville, Florida, the state is currently testing an autonomous bus. I see them as a very viable future for transportation. I can certainly agree that it would be difficult for self-driving cars to operate in a neighborhood or on a city street, but I think that a highway is the perfect place for them to be commercially viable – they’re wide, open, and boring to drive on. They would be perfect for long-distance car deliveries like the type that A-1 Auto Transport offers. They would be perfect for any logistics company in general. I expect self-driving electric trucks to be a very common occurrence in the future.

I think that A-1 Auto Transport could be a leader in the logistics industry by investing in electric and self-driving trucks earlier than its competitors to provide lower prices by paying less for fuel and workers. Currently, the Tesla Semi is available for reservation, but not being distributed. This will surely not be the only vehicle of this type but is currently the most exciting prospect. It is expected to be able to charge 80 percent of its battery in half an hour and go from 0 mph to 60 mph in 20 seconds while carrying 80,000 pounds of cargo (Business Insider, 2019). This type of truck may not be economically viable just yet, but once other companies produce similar products, the price will inevitably drop, and the value it provides will go up. That is when A-1 Auto Transport should seize the opportunity to invest early into the electric and self-driving technologies. Once the industry hits the point where it has been proven to be successful, these trucks will be everywhere on the American Highway System and the opportunity to take a lead would be lost. These trucks could be even more efficient by communicating with one another.

These electric and autonomous cars and trucks won’t only be able to connect to one another, but to the roads themselves, What I predict will be the most dramatic change is that the roads, or at least the highways, will fundamentally change from what we know today. Today, we just have a road that you drive on. I envision a future in which roads have integrated electric chargers to support long-distance drives for those who need it. Perhaps even making use of electric and magnetic fields to temporarily “power up” the cars and trucks, allowing them to go faster and be safer under the control of a network of artificial intelligence. The possibilities are endless for how far we can push the technology of transportation once electric and autonomous vehicles can be combined into the same, commercially viable product.

I see a future in which America invests publicly in its infrastructure and facilitates growth for logistics companies like A-1 Auto Transport that transport the cars that will one day ride on the roads and provide a new level of freedom to many. A-1 Auto Transport already moves and will continue to move many electric cars that will one day take part in this economically and environmentally sustainable future. In the future, companies like A-1 Auto transport will have an even larger role to play in providing freedom to Americans by giving them the cars that they want.

This whole essay may be taken with a grain of salt because I have tried to predict the future. However, there are clear trends and as an electrical engineer, I can see the possibilities for the future of our roads. Not every prediction may come true, but whatever the future is, the easy and efficient transportation of cars will be necessary to the future of America’s car culture. Cars are, and will continue to be, a vital part of how we get around the world in the future, which is why it is of utmost importance we design our vehicles and transportation systems for the benefit of both the environment and our personal freedoms to create the future of American roads.

Submitted by Trevor Brian Free on 22/02/2020

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