I am reading 'The world is flat' by Thomas L. Friedman and was surprised at how more and more work are being done remotely. There was this instance of McDonald's drive-ins using a remote call-center to take orders. The operator sits thousands of miles away in a different state and the customer doesn't even know that. They not only saw a reduction in operation cost, but also in error rates.
As we are seeing in the outsourcing boom, anything that can be digitized and
worked on remotely, will tend to get done that way. There was also a mention of hiring personal assistants in India for busy professionals in US. The Indian at Bangalore can be hired at a fraction of the US cost.
So here I was commuting back from work on Stevens Creek and there was bumper to bumper traffic. It is a 35mph stretch and doesn't demand the extra caution of a freeway driving. It is a tedious stop and go traffic and I felt wouldn't it be cool to just relax and allow someone to remotely drive my car?
There is enough technology today for someone to be sitting in, say Madras, and control my car here in California. The basics -- high quality video transmission, low latency wireless network connectivity are already available (I think a related buzzword is 'Telepresence'). There is lot of research on self driving cars -- using smart lanes and software to replace the human totally. What I'm thinking is why not just hire a pair of eyes for the time of the drive?
People may not feel the same level of safety as a physical chauffeur; after all an accident doesn't harm him physically. So at least in low risk driving environments (like low speed, less congested in-city driving), the approach seems to have some merit. And how about just having someone to watch over you on a long drive -- say to ensure you don't fall asleep. The aging population and people incapacitated (say DUI??) can hire the service.
There are also applications in other transportation areas -- trucking, railroads, even flights (I read recently the spy drones over Iraqi villages are in fact controlled and flown from Nevada, US -- in real time).
It would be fun to hire a driver just at the push of a button in your car. How about helping your friend in his long drive while you are sitting at your home and driving his car! Who knows we may see a 'push to drive' button sooner in future cars.