Skip to main content
road sage

It’s hard to keep current with the world of self-driving cars. Each day brings a new twist. The latest illumination comes from The Wall Street Journal, which recently ran a feature headlined “Self-Driving Cars Might Just Transform the Way We Work.”

It’s a well-written, well-researched article that begins with a description of Holger Hampf, the head of BMW Group Designworks, pulling his car over so he can do some business. He explains to WSJ reporter William Boston that the pit stop “happens to be an excellent example of what will change in the future. One day when cars can eventually drive themselves, executives will be able to sit back and work just as if they were in the office.”

The article cites a 2022 survey by the McKinsey Center for Future Mobility which found that almost one in five automobile buyers surveyed “said if they didn’t have to drive themselves, they wanted their car to be designed as a fully functioning office.” It then takes the reader through all the advances that AVs hold in store. We can expect holographic technology that could digitally project a business partner’s image into an AV.

“It would be just as if he were there,” McKinsey partner Tobias Schneiderbauer tells the paper. “This way the car becomes a substitute for your office. You have the same comfort as in your office, the ability to take longer rides and not lose time.”

Pop the champagne, everyone!

In our glorious tomorrow you can finish a day working in the office, work in your AV office until you get home and then work in your home office. The next morning you get up, work in your car, work at your office, work in your car again, and work at home over and over and over. Work. Work. Work.

Oh, what a piece of work is man!

Why can’t we just have cars that we drive? What’s wrong with taking a drive to clear your head? What’s wrong with listening to music? Why must everything be turned into an office? Why corrupt cars, once modernist symbols of freedom and independence, by transforming them into AV cubicles? Why not exert this energy creating stuff we want? Where are the work bedrooms? Where are the boardroom hammocks? The staff room saunas?

Each time a new technology is introduced we hope it will reflect our humanity and each time human beings end up reflecting its sterile joylessness. Social media made us less social. Now we may be condemned to the car as office. The sentiment is summed up in the 2018 Forbes article “Forget Working From Home, Autonomous Vehicles Will Drive A Boom In Working From Car.”

The autonomous rides of the future “will free up hundreds of hours per passenger per year. While some have hypothesized that this time will be used to have more sex or catch up on sleep, this reclaimed time could also be used productively – additional productivity that could have a direct and significant impact on economic activity.”

Pardon? But also? This reclaimed time could ALSO be used productively.

Also? Also? Also!

Sorry, Forbes, but having more sex and catching up on sleep are far more “productive” uses of time than having a “significant impact on economic activity.”

Dearest tech overlords of the future – please keep the office out of the automobile.

We need to be careful or scenes like the one recently out of San Francisco will become more common. On Feb. 11, a group of between 10 and 15 people surrounded a driverless Waymo taxi in Chinatown and began to pummel it with fists and a skateboard. No passengers were inside. The mob smashed windows and scrawled graffiti on it, finally setting it ablaze by throwing a firework inside. The taxi was engulfed in flames and burned to a crisp.

Imagine what the mob would have done if it thought the Waymo was an autonomous self-driving office?

Well, back to work.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe