Posted by: crudbasher | October 11, 2010

Google’s Self Driving Car and Education Reform

This weekend there was an interesting story in the NYT about Google developing cars that drive themselves.  The idea for self driving cars is not new but this is some serious progress.  The engineers say the technology will be ready in eight years.  That might seem like a long time but really it is only the blink of an eye in global terms.

So what does this have to do with Education?  It is a disruptive innovation that will affect many seemingly unrelated fields. Let me explain.

Right now, my wife and I have two cars.  She isn’t working at the moment so most of the time she is at home.  As you might imagine her car is only rarely used.  My car is used for a total of 50 minutes per day Mon-Fri (more on the weekends).  My commute to work is about 20-25 minutes.  So for most of the day my car sits in the parking lot.  If I had a self driving car, I would get rid of my other one.  My car would drive me to work, then it would drive back home for my wife to use.

Yes but wait a second, when I am home, my car just sits in the garage most of the time.  I really only need a car for a short time each day.  So… What if I didn’t have a car at all?  What if I could reserve a rental car online (using my cell phone) and have it drive to my house to get me?  If the cars were prepositioned around the area, the wait time would be very small.  It could even re-route a car that is passing by.  I jump in and go where I want.  After I get to my destination, the car goes and gets someone else.  The best part is, I can get various kinds of car for whatever I am doing.  If I am going to the hardware store, I can get a pickup truck.  Some models will be better at long journeys, and some would be better for city driving.

Having a self driving car changes things in other ways.  Today, that commute to work is largely wasted time. I can listen to the radio or talk on my cell phone, but I can’t use the net or check email.  If the car drives itself, that changes.  Now that commute time becomes useful.

So how does this affect education?  Simple.  You don’t have to be 16 to ride in one of these cars.  Kids would have more mobility (with their parents supervision of course).  Now you don’t need school busses.  That means you don’t have to start school at the same time and let out at the same time.  Kids and come and go as necessary.

Think of the disruptions that comes from this simple idea.

1.  Car companies don’t need to make as many cars because car ownership would drastically fall.
2.  Parking lots could be a lot smaller. (that’s a lot of wasted space)
3.  Houses can be designed differently (no garage)
4. Auto service centers are much less required.
5. Society becomes more mobile.
6. Drunk driving would be eliminated. (in fact traffic accidents would largely be eliminated)
7. Traffic could be routed more efficiently.
8. With less cars in existence it’s better for the environment.
9. You don’t need school busses. (that’s a large expense)
10. Highways don’t have to be as wide. (another waste of space.)
11. The idea of taxi drivers, bus drivers, and truck drivers will go away.

That’s just a quick list of disruptive changes.

So about that Education Reform.

Many people (especially in Washington DC) are focused on Education Reform as a single thing.  We can create yet another government initiative and that fixes education for the 21st century.  I don’t believe this is possible because you can’t define 21st century education.  It will constantly change just like in 1900 you couldn’t define 20th century education.  What we need is a process, not a solution.  A process of innovation and evolution will allow the education system to flex and adapt to a changing world.

Here’s the problem.  If you want to create a standardized product you have to create processes that allow you to repeat the education experience with as few deviations as possible.  There is no evolution.  That is why it’s so hard to change the system.  It’s designed to resist change.

This system will eventually be disrupted, and probably quite soon.  I’ll look back at this post in 10 years and see how far along we are.

  • Google cars drive themselves

    tags: technology disruptive

    • The car is a project of Google, which has been working in secret but in plain view on vehicles that can drive themselves, using artificial-intelligence software that can sense anything near the car and mimic the decisions made by a human driver.


    • seven test cars have driven 1,000 miles without human intervention and more than 140,000 miles with only occasional human control.


    • The engineers say the technology could double the capacity of roads by allowing cars to drive more safely while closer together.


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.



  1. Pretty darn cool! Looking forward to seeing how this technology evolves. I hadn’t thought about its implications for education but I think you are right. In addition, if schools aren’t so reliant on busses, fieldtrips outside of the classroom become a lot more regular.

    • The amazing thing is this kind of technology is only one of many that are coming down the pipe that can change things a lot.

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