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Friday, January 13, 2012

Driving Your Life Away...

I was reading this article in the WSJ about the future of cars and technology.

Car makers are no doubt planning on making cars "smarter" - like "smart phones" I suppose.

But what does this mean?

On the technological side it means that, like your phone, your car will know where you have been.  Run off to that sexy co-worker's apartment after work?  You're car will know.  Listening to the latest "dubstep" tune?  Your phone (or car) will be able to display ads on where to buy the full album.  Go into a ditch on an icy winter road?  The rescue team will know where to find you and your significant others phone will chirp in despair that your coordinates are no longer "on the map."

But there are trade-offs, as always.

But even before you think of "technological trade-offs" think about why this is even going on.

On average American's spend 1/4 of each eight hour day (that's "two hours" for those we advanced degrees) working to pay for their cars according to this article (assuming the car cost is $11,000 USD and the wage is an average of $22.00/hour).

American's spend about 100 hours a year commuting on average (according to this 2005 article).

Overall American's spend at least 500 hours a year in their cars - with some estimates as high as 1,000 hours.

On average in 2006 Americans spend more than a billion hours a week in cars (see this).  The US tax system requires an average of 6.1 billion hours to comply with each year - so in six weeks of driving we could all do our taxes.  Each year in Europe there are one billion sick hours off of work.  So during our driving time each week we could supplement all of Europe's sick days.

So this is a lifestyle option - sitting in one of the most expensive items you will ever purchase in your lifetime doing the routine job of driving over and over.  Unless you're a traveling sales person you go to the same places day in and out.

So as you while away your life each day what better to do that use gadgets.

The only problem with this is that gadgets, like smart phones, are a distraction and known to cause at least as many accidents as drinking.  So they are being outlawed...

But the auto industry, not to despair, has taken up the "smart phone" mantle and will be making your billion ours of wasted time fritter away more pleasantly by using their built-in smart gadgets - or at least linking your "smart phone" to their smart car- which you will gladly buy.

I can't say I blame them - one billion mostly idle man hours a week represents a huge market for things like radio, iTunes, and other non-distracting forms of entertainment.

So think of all the people involved in the infrastructure of this - OnStar employees, iTunes employees, and so on - all employed by this wasted billion hours a week.

Come to think of it we could just "work" in our cars and save on the overlap...

Or, even better, simply not commute at all and work from home.

Why, there's probably untold trillions of wasted man hours, resources, infrastructure and costs tied up in the notion of "commuting"...

So now we have developed a vast network of internet technology to link everyone (nearly) in the country.   This duplicates to a large degree our "built" infrastructure (roads, airplanes, oil, etc.) which did the same and which replaced horses and stage coaches and telegraphs and the old Bell Telephone system.

I, for example, no longer commute.  As an "average man" I get an extra hour a day free.

I no longer need Starbucks, nice clothes, a car, oil changes, gas, expensive parking, roads, stores, any of that.

I still go to the bank because some customers still pay bills by check.  I still need food (but if Amazon could deliver it I probably would only need to leave the house once a month to pick up items too expensive to ship...  remember "PeaPod?")

So I see a pivotal change coming: no more real need for automobiles at all.  None.

This is why the Chevy Volt only goes 40 miles on a charge - no need for more.

The "efficiency" of the "automobile lifestyle" has already peaked and the wasting of hours and time driving do not offer a real "return" on the investment of doing it.

So my former "work" vehicle is basically idle now - I drive it to gigs once or twice a week - it will last until it literally falls apart.  Mrs. Wolf has a vehicle that we probably drive less than 30 miles a week now - save for the occasional "big trip" of 30 miles.

The internet has taken over.  Unusual or work-related specialty things we need come from Amazon.

Even entertainment - like live music - will eventually go away - destroyed by ASCAP and large-screen TV.

Right now I'm ahead of the curve.

I've organized my life around not driving.

But soon others will be there in great numbers as well - choking the data freeway of the internet.

Why have an office when you have free WiFi video chat and GoTo Meeting?

Obviously these "benefits" don't apply to many things, like manufacturing.

But that will change too - all because of waste. 

Waste of man hours in driving and in cars.

But then, what will the people that make cars and roads and automobile infrastructure do?

They'll be unemployed.

I'll have to make money to pay taxes to support them.

But my customers will diminish because their customers in these now obsolete lines of work will diminish...

You get the point.

The "automobile lifestyle" all really just a big fat Ponzi scheme.

And the road is running out...

So all this "piling on" by car manufacturers into technology and smart cars is probably going to backfire.

Why have a smart car when its "smarter" just to stay home and work?

But then, someone has to feed the "automobile lifestyle" Ponzi scheme - I guess its their turn.

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