Through the course of the 20th Century, automation contributed enormously to growing wealth in the developed world. Automation frees labor from mundane and repetitive tasks so it can be applied to more skilled and knowledge-intensive activities. Through the course of the 20th Century, nearly all mechanical and industrial activies were automated as much as possible, from manufacturing to agriculture, from design to research. The result was an enormous increase in wealth in the economies where automation was widely adopted.
Ironically, one of the few activities overlooked by the tide of automation is driving. While we have largely automated the design and production of automobiles, we still operate them very much as we did one hundred years ago when first invented. (We automated the process of shifting gears, but that’s been about it.) Understanding why the automobile still runs in “manual” mode requires a closer look at automation.
According to Webster, automation describes “any system or method that uses self-operating equipment, electronic devices, etc. to replace human beings in doing routine or repetitive work”. We seek to automate a process in order to achieve greater through-put, reliability and cost-effectiveness.
Until recently, the benefits of automation would not have been cost-effective for driving. Two trends have shifted this balance. First, the inability to expand highway capacity causes ever-growing traffic congestion. Second, the value of time is growing steadily in advanced economies. Together these trends demand an increase in traffic throughput that can only be achieved by automating the driving process. QwikLane, for instance, offers a through-put increase exceeding seven times that of a freeway lane at a fraction of the cost and with greater reliability and safety. Most important, this means time savings for traffic-weary drivers.