Futuristic Tech Is Getting Real?Fast

The rapid and accelerating pace of technology change has finally reached the mindboggling stage. As a business and technology writer, I’m not easily impressed by technology innovation. There are few truly landmark events.

The introduction of the first viable personal computer by Steve Jobs in 1975 certain ranks up there. The opening of the internet to public use in 1995 deserves consideration. Perhaps Apple’s introduction of the iPhone in 2007 represents another milestone.

However, a couple of recent news items demonstrate just how rapidly technology is advancing—and how quickly emerging technologies are now creeping into everyday life.

Item #1: Singapore firm nuTonomy has just debuted self-driving taxis in the wild. The trial (which uses modified Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric cars in a business and technology district) represents the first time anyone has operated commercial autonomous vehicles on public roads.

Interestingly, this bold move usurps an announcement about a week earlier that Uber will soon test self-driving vehicles (retrofitted Ford Fusions) in Pittsburgh, where the company operates a self-driving vehicle research lab.

I’ve written several articles about autonomous vehicles over the past few years. Many experts believe that the technology is still a decade or two away, despite Google, Tesla and others making inroads.

There’s no question that infrastructure and standards are required to take the concept into the mainstream, but it’s clear that these vehicles will arrive sooner than many have predicted. Taxis, car-sharing services and others will likely put them into motion over the next few years.

Item #2: Delivery by drone suddenly seems to be taking off. Although Amazon, Google and others have waxed poetic on the possibilities—and convenience store chain 7-Eleven is conducting commercial trials for dropping coffee, doughnuts and other must-have items into customers’ laps—Domino’s Pizza Enterprises in New Zealand seems to have everyone beat.

The company plans to become the first one to offer commercial drone delivery service later this year, according to a Reuters’ news report. Last year, New Zealand approved commercial drone deliveries, though it requires operators to maintain line-of-site on the devices.

It’s no secret that drones are already widely used by film and TV studios, agribusiness, engineers, insurance companies and others. But now we’re seeing the technology fly into everyday life. In the United States, the FAA approved their use for commercial deliveries, with rules and limitations.

The upshot? We are about to witness technology changes and disruption on a scale that has never before existed. Combined with robots, 3D and 4D printing, the internet of things and other technology advances, we’re rapidly entering unchartered territory. Fasten your seat belt.