Absorptive Capacity

Innovation management experts have started using the term “Absorptive Capacity” to explain how ready our society is for change. The idea is similar to how a sponge absorbs liquid and in the case of society, how readily people can absorb technological innovation. When discussing the future of autonomous transportation, experts and psychologists use this term because they think it will help prepare society at large to accept a new age that they say we may be entering — a new psychological frontier of a kind we have never before encountered.

This idea of autonomous transportation seems to be pushed upon our society almost as if we, supposedly a free people, have no choice in the matter—autonomous and driverless cars are inevitable whether we want them or not. If we as a society don’t want them, then why do we accept this supposed inevitability?

Perhaps many of us secretly love the idea of autonomous transportation because it gives us hope for a shiny future akin to the life we see on the television show Star Trek—all is well and everything works when we want it to work. I really do love that show Star Trek but I don’t believe for a minute that the age we might be entering will be anything like Star Trek.

The future of autonomous vehicles really feels LESS like a choice and MORE like social engineering.

Having robotic intelligence forced upon us even in increments brings up many more questions than answers:

  • Why does driving and owning a car need to be disrupted and who decided this?
  • Will we no longer be able to come and go as we please? Instead, will we have to wait for a ride just like we did when we were kids?
  • Will we still have the choice to drive? Or we will just have to absorb our capacity to deal with riding as a passenger in a zombie car with no real true input into its artificial realm?
  • What if we want to go somewhere an autonomous vehicle cannot go because of capacity or range? What kind of transportation options would we have then?
  • If we are always connected to a device that needs input for time and place, will our privacy be protected from hackers and the government about our whereabouts when?
  • If we allow an almost artificial intelligence to make decisions on our behalf which we could have easily made ourselves perhaps, what does that say about us as a person or as a society at large?

As the absorptive capacity for riding as a passenger in a driverless car becomes more real instead of in the realm of science fiction, the list of questions will only become longer. But who can and will actually answer them? The expectation is a group think but in reality I think we are pretty much on our own.

NMA’s Car of the Future Headline Watch as of January 26, 2017

The latest headlines from around the country on the car of the future. To see these articles and more check out the Flipboard Magazine Car of the Future.

Industry News
-NHTSA has finished its investigation into the autopilot crash of a Tesla car in May 2016 that killed the driver. Tesla has since fixed the problem through a software update–a new way to work out an auto recall perhaps.

Driverless Cars
-SAFE says automakers should share autonomous vehicle test data.

-Massachusetts statehouse bill will limit “zombie cars”.

-10 cities and/or universities have been tapped to test drive autonomous vehicles.

-New Jersey lawmakers want to make sure that driverless vehicles have auto insurance.

Ridesharing Watch
-Uber wants to be a DC Powerhouse

-Lyft plans expansion to 40 cities this week.

-NYC could replace plans for trolley system with a ridesharing van system instead.

NMA’s Car of the Future Headline Watch appears every Thursday on the NMA Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/motorists/.

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