86. When we combine the driverless car with the minimalistic home — that’s when it gets really interesting
August 4th, 2026.
Outside your window, the sun is shining on Berlin rooftops. You may be Belgian, but since you work from home (everything is digital these days, and as an accountant working from home makes sense), it’s no problem that you’ve chosen to live here. Your apartment may be small, but it still contains all you need; your bed, your office space, your bookshelves, bathroom, kitchen, relaxation space and the litter box for your cat. It’s small, but it’s home, and many people all over the world make due with less — hell, you did as well, when you were a student, right?
The day starts with a brief jog, a cup of coffee from a local café and then a shower. You finish your morning routine at 9, sit down at your desk and get to work. At 11, you grab a snack. A bit later, you take an hour’s break to read a bit, play with the cat and nap a little. At 13.00 it’s lunch-time, which you fix from your fridge, and then you put in a few more hours of work before stopping at 15.30.
You then get caught up on private emails, spend some on facebook, and then binge-watch three episodes of Game of Thrones, since you’re still trying to catch up with your friends. At around 18.00, you realise that you’re starving and consider meeting somebody for dinner. Oh, that’s right, Hubert has been talking about this new restaurant a bit outside the city for ages, so you call him and ask him if he’s up for dinner there at 19.00. He sounds surprised, but says that he’ll be there, and will bring his new boyfriend as well, so you can meet him. Dinner plans in order, you manage to cram in another half GoT episode, and then you open the door; ready for a good evening with good company.
After all, a restaurant just outside Paris sounds pretty appealing, right?
Because you’re no longer in Berlin, but on the outskirts of Paris. And what’s more, you no longer live in Berlin, but in Paris. While you’ve been inside your apartment from 9 — 18.30, your apartment has driven itself the roughly one thousand kilometers that separate Berlin and Paris. All you have to do is plug it into the local electricity and sewage system, and you’re a Paris resident.
How does an apartment drive? Simple. It’s a autonomous vehicle (AV). Except it’s not shaped like a car, as we understand them now, but as a mobile home. Like a well-equipped trailer home, but with its own motor power, and its own digital driver.
Unreal? I think it’s only going to be all too real, and will completely change how we think of homes. It’s just a matter of taking the next step in thinking about automatisation.
It’s also about rethinking vehicles.
Autonomous Vehicles (“driverless cars”) are going to transform our lives. We all know they’re not just coming, but are here already, and that they will have massive, global impact on how the world works. Not in 50 years, but in five or ten.
I’ve read a number of articles on the challenges of that transition. The simplest driverless car is a normal car, just with no driver. But once you start thinking about it (like many smart people have), you realise that this is only the beginning. If you take out the driver, you can change the car completely. And that’s where it gets complex, but also exhilarating.
Now, I’m not a futurist. I don’t have a good understanding of technology (not even in the broadest sense), and I don’t know enough about society and its mechanisms to be able to make predictions that make sense.
But like everyone else, I’m sometimes hit by ideas. Most of these quickly become google searches (followed by the almost inevitable “Oh, that’s been a major discussion in that field for twenty years already” reaction).
From time to time I end up not finding somebody else’s smarter thoughts, though. That’s when I start talking about it with friends, who usually say “Wow. That’s pretty insightful/scary/reasonable/etc.”
Unless it’s something related to my field, however, nothing more happens.
The difference this time is that I’m writing it down.
Probably the same nothing will happen (I’m sure other people have thought of this before, and thinking of it and doing it are two very different things), but at least I’ll be able to look back some years in the future and say “Huh… I actually saw that coming!”.
Hindsight is the sweetest (and sometimes only) victory. ;-)
So, on to the core idea
- Take a small, transportable house. (like the one shown here)¨
- Connect it to a truck. That’s how it gets transported around, after all.
- Make the truck driverless.
- Now, make the trailer and the truck one unit instead of separate.
What you have now is — essentially — a self-driving home, that is both an autonomous vehicle (AV) and a home (if a small one!). It’s not even a big stretch of the imagination.
- There are already people living in trailer homes.
- There are even more transportable homes in development.
- There are already AVs that can safely navigate roads.
- It’s just a matter of combining those technologies.
I don’t know when it’ll happen, but I’m quite confident that it will happen.
And while it won’t be possible for everyone to live a life like I’ve just described, it will be for some. Anyone whose work is digital or not location specific, can theoretically become a nomad already. But most of us like to have a base. This is a way of making that base mobile.
And the consquences of that are going to be crazy.
Instead of having a summer house in Southern France, you just have one house — and then when you want to go on vacation, you take your house with you.
Instead of paying expensive rent for a space in the city while you’re away for a week, you send your home three aways away, to your brother’s home out in a rural area. He then doesn’t have to drive to feed your cat, and you save the city rent. And when you come back home, the house will have driven back to where you left it. All you need to do is to plug it back in.
Instead of renting a room somewhere, because you’re doing a month of work there, you simply move your home there for a month.
The nomad life is hard, because you don’t have a base, and constantly uprooting is perhaps even harder. But what if you could move your whole house with you with a minimum of effort?
It won’t be a game changer for everyone, but for some it’ll make dreams come true. And I’m pretty excited about that.
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