Commentary: This Is Not Science Fiction…This is The Year 2020

If you believe anyone in the science fiction community or someone who had to do future planning for some government or corporate entity, the year 2020 may seem like some far off fantasy.

We thought 2020 would be a year where "The Jetsons" would become reality – flying cars, robots, and all sorts of technology around everyone. We also thought that we would be living on the Moon or some other far off planet.

That year has arrived. We’re not in some sci-fi fantasy. Although, the world has evolved somewhat.

The degree of technology that surrounds us was mere fantasies some forty years ago. The entire world is connected through Wi-Fi and cellular networks. Our smartphones and other mobile devices are the way we connect across planet Earth. The computer is here, powering nations and individual careers.

None of our automobiles are capable of flying in the air. Yet, we have them connected to the same mobile networks that connect all of us. Some vehicles are operating with a battery pack, either combined with a fossil fuel source or not. In a gap of well over a century, we are back to electric propulsion for our vehicles.

The automotive industry is still working out full autonomous operation. There are some vehicles running on technologies that are leading towards that future. Those technologies are helping to keep us safe to avoid collisions while on the road. Yet, there are still drivers that need to engage with their vehicles inside even the most hostile of environments.

Vehicular engagement is something my generation was taught around forty years ago. Getting a driver’s license meant having someone with a second steering wheel helping you to get your driving lesson right. Yet, some of us found ourselves losing the lessons of working the third pedal and rowing your own gears as our parents learned some decades before.

We arrive into 2020 devoid of a reality that “The Jetsons” envisioned for us in cartoon form. For us borderline Baby Boomers and Generation Xers, the familiar still exists. The internal combustion engine, fueled by liquid born from fossils, still rules the global vehicle industry.

One thought came to mind as I was considering the future that 2020 would have brought. Forty years ago – 1980, to be exact – some chubby, tall, oblong 16-year-old walked into the California Department of Motor Vehicles office in Canoga Park to pass his driving test for the second time. A few weeks later, his license arrived from Sacramento – his mug smiling, somewhat. That card would be the ticket to the universe, so he thought.

That 16-year-old will be turning 56 next month. He is awaiting his newest driver’s license from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety in St. Paul – replete with the required RealID add-on necessary for domestic air travel.

Some nine years ago, that same licensed driver would have to make a decision regarding his career in the world of writing. His passion for the automobile lead him to a trajectory that would see the name of this website change to its current title.

In case you have not figured it out, that person happens to be me.

Forty years ago, I had no clue what 2020 would look like. I doubted the who “Jetsons” idea or anything Sci-Fi related that had conflicting and strange visions of what this new year would look like. I knew I would live to see the day that the years would change for the 21st Century.

But, I never envisioned a world where mobile technology would be as addicting as narcotics and used as artificial intelligence to express human emotion and thought. Not to mention witnessing the integration of that technology inside our automobiles.

Nor would I had considered working with vehicles that had multiple times the power of a smogged-up 7.5-liter overhead-valve, carbureted V8 engine. Nowadays, the vehicles I work with sport efficient turbochargers, advanced cylinder head designs, fuel injection, computer controls, and even fewer cylinders and displacement. Heck, my average fuel economy has doubled – even tripled – from that monster engine that was in my first car: a 1972 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Luxury Sedan.

Which brings me to my "2020 vision." My workflow will continue accordingly: vehicle reviews, stories and commentary about the industry, looking back at our automotive history, catching the latest from the infotainment world, auto show coverage, travel stories, and more. I will also be as present as possible in the local automotive community.

The world is still familiar to me. It is devoid of future shock. This is not a "Jetsons" fantasy we’re living in. But, a year full of vision and promise.

Welcome to 2020.

Cover photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

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