winton-touring-carOn May 23, 1903, Horatio Nelson Jackson set out from San Francisco on America’s first great road trip. A mere 63 days later, he safely arrived in New York City.

Today, Jackson’s journey might not sound extraordinary but remember at the time of his trip there were no road signs, no gas stations and only 150 miles of paved road in the entire country.

Over the course of the past 112 years, America—and the world—has experienced nothing short of a revolution in personal transportation.

Is the revolution over? Of course not.

The reason, ironically, can be found in a more recent San Francisco to New York road race. From March 22 to April 6, 2015, an autonomous—or self-driving—vehicle, developed by Delphi Automotive, successfully completed the 3,400-mile journey from San Francisco to New York.

delphi-self-drivingAnd just as Jackson’s 63-day adventure presaged America’s love affair with the automobile, this autonomous journey might similarly offer a view of a new era.

Yet, just as Horatio Jackson could not have predicted how the automobile would lead to the creation of suburbs, two-car garages, massive traffic jams and half-million dollar recreational vehicles (RVs) complete with bathrooms and satellite TVs, it is equally difficult to fathom how autonomous vehicles might transform society in the future.

The one thing we do know is that citizens need not be inactive participants. The time to begin considering this new future is now.

If you are fortunate enough to live in Greater MSP—the Minneapolis and St. Paul area—you have a wonderful opportunity to not only learn about this future but also be an active participant in the conversation. On April 30, the Urban Land Institute of Minnesota, in partnership with the Science of Museum, is sponsoring Designing a Driverless Future: The Future is Now! The program features one of the world’s foremost experts on the subject, John Eddy.

As a teaser to what the coming revolution might sound like, here is a big clue—you might not hear it coming (unless you attend the event).

P.S. To this end, did you know that Tesla recently announced that later this summer it will be sending out to all of its Model S vehicles a software upgrade that gives the vehicles an autonomous driving function!