For as long as there have been cars, there have been travelers using them to get away.
The experience has been evolving for more than a hundred years, but at its heart, road travel is about wanderlust and connecting with family and friends.
As the brand that brought the Model T to the masses, Ford has an outsized place in American road trip history. Ford Motor Company even employs a futurist (or, in corporate language, a “Manager, Global Consumer Trends and Futuring,”) to study where road travel has been and take a proactive look at where it will go.
USA TODAY asked Ford’s futurist Sheryl Connelly about the past, present and future of road trips.
What does road travel look like now compared to predictions made about it 50 years ago?
Like many kids that grew up in the 1970s and 80s, my vision of the future was shaped by The Jetsons reruns and included robotic housekeepers, video communications and best of all — a flying car. As far as predictions go, two out of three isn’t bad. While the fictional Rosie the Robotic Housekeeper could run circles around the real-life Roomba vacuum, flat-screen TVs, portable tablets and video communication are shockingly right on point. It is the flying car that seems to be the unfulfilled promise from Hanna-Barbera. However, I would argue that flying notwithstanding, those vehicles had many features that we might take for granted today, such as sensors, drive-assist features and embedded navigation, among others.
Fifty years ago we never would have imagined the impact technology would have on road travel. Trusty maps have been replaced by Google Earth, cellphones were not even in existence — yet today, and especially with social media, are more imperative than ever.
What motivates people to travel has changed too. Consumers prefer to spend their time and money on enriching experiences rather than material goods, allowing them to connect with family or friends, seek exploration and adventure and ultimately find happiness in something that does not necessarily come from factors like wealth or a status symbol.
What will our road-trip vehicles look like and do in 20 years? Fifty years?
Imagine a time when you don’t need to worry about driving and you can give undivided attention to something other than wrestling with traffic jams, navigating the daily commute or traversing a long-distance road trip. Fully autonomous, self-driving vehicles will cause people to rethink their notions of time well spent. Within 20 years much of that time will continue to focus on work, productivity, efficiency and learning endeavors — all of which will be enabled with enhanced connectivity.
Read more of the original article at USA TODAY.