I’ve been thinking a lot about Amara’s Law in relation to the current discourse on autonomous vehicles and related advancements in our mobility world.
What is Amara’s Law? This: “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”
The phrase, coined by American researcher and futurist Roy Charles Amara concisely describes how we as an industry and a society can be carried along by the wave of the “hype cycle” where expectations from change are vastly over-estimated in the short term, only to have those expectations dashed in the “trough of disillusionment.”
Of course the second part of that is that we have no idea how profound the effect of changes can be in the long term. Do you really think that the creators of social media had any idea the impact it would have on our society when first started posting pictures of classmates? Frankly, do you think that Henry Ford really appreciated the full scope of impact that his Model T and its successors had? He was just trying to sell cars, but what it started changed the very nature of how we live.
While I think it unwise to look at coming changes in terms of their impact over the next century–change seems to come much quicker these days–but with respect to the massive rise in technology available for use in vehicles currently and more so over the next few years, it seems wise IMHO to always keep an eye on the timelines being referenced in expert discussions, usually five or more years out for initial, real market availability, and even further out for widespread adoption.
And if the projections include a heavy reliance on public funds, whether through subsidies or direct fleet purchases, well, be careful on that front too.
This is true whether you are looking at the leading edge of autonomous vehicle technology or the comparatively mundane market penetration of electric vehicle technology.
And then there is the aftermarket benefit of watching those new technologies make their way through the aging vehicle population before they become common sights at service facilities.
None of this means that the aftermarket should not prepare. On the contrary.
It must, for example, be vigilant to ensure it continues to have access to repair information and tools required to maintain whatever vehicles are on the roads. We have it now, we need to ensure we keep it. It must stay connected with regulators to ensure it is not inadvertently locked out of the conversation. It must start to really understand the structure of the technology and the vehicles and the way that they will be sold and owned, and more.
But it does means though that investments in time, effort and money at the distribution and service level must be managed smartly so as to ensure the aftermarket does not prepare itself for a future too long before that future arrives.
To me, the real danger in getting caught up in the hype is moving too much and too early, suffering the downsides of that “trough of disillusionment,”–where investments fail to pay off–retreating from these initiatives, and then missing the opportunity when it really arrives in earnest.
Change in incremental. It’s not like tomorrow morning you will wake up and not be able to recognize any vehicle on the road and they’ll all be driving themselves. It’s more like the way we realize it’s been months or years since we last sent a fax. Lane departure warning systems are almost ubiquitous now, but the vehicles look the same and you might not realize it’s there until you wander over the line.
Change happens almost without us knowing it, but it also happens whether we’re ready for it or not. And then one day you wake up and realize everything has changed.
So for now, let’s keep working toward the future, keep engaging with partners to get their perspectives, keep learning, and, most importantly ensure that we’re all taking care of today so that when tomorrow comes, we’ll be here to take it on.
This article was originally posted on LinkeIn by the author.