IAP 2017-E1: Welcome new host Jeremy Curry and Flying Cars

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The Interactive Accessibility Podcast (IAP) is an entertaining approach to accessibility. We enjoy sharing our discussions on accessibility and how it relates to technology, real-life issues, information, businesses, and people with disabilities. In this episode: Flying Cars.

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Full Transcript:

Announcer: Welcome to the IAP, the Interactive Accessibility Podcast, bringing you the people, technology, and ideas helping to make your world accessible to everyone.

 

[music]

Mark Miller: Hey, this is Mark.
Jeremy Curry: Hey, this is Jeremy.
Mark: You're listening to the Interactive Accessibility Podcast, the IAP. I'm Mark Miller, and I'm the Director of Accounts and Marketing for Interactive Accessibility. Jeremy, do you want to tell them who you are?
Jeremy: I'm Jeremy Curry. I do multiple things at Interactive Accessibility, with all sorts of AT testing, AT stuff, project management, you name it. Kind of the jack-of-all-trades here.
Mark: Nice. For those of you who don't know what the acronym AT means, that's assistive technology. Those are the technologies that people with disabilities use to have equivalent experience to people without disabilities when it comes to things like surfing the Web.
Jeremy: You got it.
Mark: How'd I do?
Jeremy: You got it.
Mark: Good.
Mark: This is our first podcast that we've done in a while. A while ago, for those of you guys who have followed us, you might remember me with another individual named Mike Guill doing podcasts a while back. We took a big long break, and Jeremy joined the company and is the perfect choice for picking these back up again.

 

I want to say, before we get started, Jeremy, that I'm really happy to have you and have you co-hosting this podcast with me. You and I have had some conversations and I just think that you're going to add a wonderful insight to the discussions.

Jeremy: I appreciate that, Mark. Thanks for having me. I'm glad to be a co-host with you and looking forward to this podcast and some more.

 

For those of you who don't know much about me, which might be some of you, I came from the assistive technology world where I've been developing props and software and that whole realm in regards to product management and training and pretty much anything you can think of with assistive technology, whether it's Braille Notetakers or handheld magnifiers, or screen magnifier software, screen-reading software.

Because I don't take myself too seriously, I like to refer to myself here internally at IA as the token blind guy.

[laughter]

Jeremy: I have some vision but I do use a guide dog, Darren, who you might hear snoring in the background occasionally. It's fantastic to be here and just thanks for having me.
Mark: Darren is an official part of the podcast. Everybody should realize that.
Jeremy: He is. You might hear his tail thump every now and again, too, if he gets super happy.
Mark: If we get stuck, we'll just refer to Darren. He can bail us out of any situation we get into.
Jeremy: That's right. What do you think about that, Darren?

 

[pause]

Jeremy: Nothing.
Mark: Nothing.
Jeremy: [laughs]
Mark: Tail wag time. Also, just one more bit about you is that you were on a podcast with just me a while back. You can dig back in the archives a few years and you can hear Jeremy chatting with us about some things from his previous company. Maybe you guys even remember him from then.

 

Here's where we are. You were nice enough, Jeremy, to do some research for our first podcast. I'm thinking the AT expert, token blind guy is going to come up with some dry assistive technology topic to come up with. No, you come to me and say, "I want to talk about flying cars."

[laughter]

Jeremy: Of course, because I'm a super geek.
Mark: You're a super geek, which I'm like, "Yes, let's talk about flying cars. That sounds better than anything else." Tell me right away. I'm curious as to why you came up with...For an accessibility podcast, why flying cars?
Jeremy: Flying cars, I think about some type of autonomy or autonomous cars, which we'll probably talk about in a different podcast. I think years ago, I was watching TV, and I remember James Earl Jones in the Darth Vader voice. Since we're recording this on Star Wars Day, May the 4th, by the way...
Mark: [Darth Vader breathing] Is it Star Wars Day today? It is Star Wars Day. That's awesome.
Jeremy: It's Star Wars Day today, yeah. May the 4th be with you.
Mark: May the force be with you.
Jeremy: [laughs]
Mark: The fourth. I said force. I meant to say fourth but I actually said force out of force of habit, so May the 4th be with you.
Jeremy: [laughs] bada-ching. James Earl Jones, I remember he's stating it around in this commercial. He's looking around the world and he goes, "Where are all the flying cars? They promised us flying cars."

 

It was somewhere after the year 2000 thinking that the 21st century was going to bring all of this cool and exciting stuff. It has but in a much different way than most of us ever anticipated or expected that we're growing up in the second half of the 20th century.

Flying cars, to me, it's got all this promise of things that can impact people with disabilities or people without disabilities. One of the things that I've had to struggle with personally over the years -- as I've lost my sight because I have a genetic eye condition -- is that, at one point, I had to hand my keys to my wife and say, "I can't drive anymore." That was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

A flying car has given me that promise of having that independence back but not only for me but for people who are mainstream, too.

Like Mark has fully cited, flying cars are cool for him, they're cool for people with disabilities. It could just transform our world. While we're starting to see autonomous vehicles start to take off with Google having theirs, Uber having their fleet. Apple car was just spotted recently.

Now, we're seeing a resurgence of flying cars again, and I thought, "Hey, let's talk about flying cars because everybody's talking about autonomous cars. Let's take it a step further." I don't like to do things just on the edge. I like the bleeding edge.

[phone rings]

Mark: That is what's interesting. I don't know if you can hear my phone going in the background, but I apologize to the listening audience there. This person's real on this. That's interesting that you've got two things happening simultaneously and that's this idea of flying cars and autonomous cars.

 

Especially when we look at drones and stuff like that that we've already worked with, I think that it makes sense that both of these two technologies are growing up, if you will, at the same time.

Jeremy: Even though Star Wars day, I keep thinking Star Trek technology and speech recognition, which is here, and voice augmentation; all these things that really compose the essence of assistive technology. We've got those things and now, we see that they start finding its way to the mainstream in some sectors.

 

You call a 1-800 number for pick your favorite service; DirecTV, Dish Network, IBM, whoever it is. It's going to get automated phone system. It's going to be synthesized speech and we just take that for granted. It's no longer recording.

Those things have come out of assistive technology, and we see that same parallel with things like flying cars. For example, Google, which everybody knows, and just one of my favorite search engines. Larry Page is one of the guys who's actually working on a prototype right now for a company called Kitty Hawk.

Mark: Kitty Hawk, yeah.
Jeremy: We're seeing that even the people who are in the complete mainstream reach out for these things. Eventually, I think that they'll become a part of our everyday life; maybe not completely flying, maybe at least semi-autonomous.

 

I was talking to my eye doctor recently who helped write some of the bioptic driving laws in Indiana. If you don't know what bioptic driving is, make sure you check out our blog on our website. I asked him. I said, "Are you're going to be involved in any licensing for autonomous cars or flying cars or anything like that?" because he had been at the state legislature level here.

He looks at me and he goes, "No, because it's just going to become commonplace." He goes, "Heck, in 25 years, it's probably going to be illegal for people to drive a car."

Mark: This is interesting.
Jeremy: That is quite a different perspective. One of the things that might hold us back is not the technology in and of itself but the acceptance of the technology and the standards of the technology. We even see that as you probably know, Mark, in our everyday lives just trying to get people to incorporate accessibility into their websites.
Mark: Law moves so much slower than technology, whether it's a data privacy, whether it's accessibility, whether it's something like aviation laws when it comes to who can and can't fly around in a car, flying around in a car. That's certainly a concern but it's always one step behind the actual technology. I can definitely see that being a barrier.

 

Technologically, I think that with flying cars and stuff like that, we're there technologically, except for this really annoying ongoing problem that occurs with a lot of technologies. That's battery life that we really could do anything if we could make those batteries lighter and last longer and deliver more power.

I will post some of the stuff that we used to research this topic, but if you really start to look at the people like the Kitty Hawk project that are building these flying cars, it's that battery technology that holds them back.

Mark: We used to research this topic, but if you really start to look at the people -- like the Kitty Hawk project -- that are building these flying cars, it's that battery technology that holds them back. Let me tell you what I think is interesting about this, and it does have to do with the autonomy piece.

 

There's another weird revelation from an accessibility standpoint that I had, and that is that I drive manual transmission cars. I love manual transmission cars and I have never on purpose owned an automatic car. I have one now because it was my mom's car and that I have my own manual transmission car.

Anyways, I'm in the car with my wife, and we're driving along. I went, "Boy," like that, and she looked at me and said, "What?" I said, "I just realized I forgot I was driving." I was driving this automatic car and I was thinking. I'm like, "Man, it's been a long time since I've really spaced out that much behind the wheel." I thought, "You know what it is? It's that I'm driving automatic that I'm not engaged."

I realized at that point...Now, I'm not a person that considers myself to have a disability, but I guess technically, I do have ADD. I was diagnosed with it as a child. It was never really addressed. Then, I see my son who has it as well, and he has these fidget toys. These keep one part of his brain occupied, so he can focus on something else.

I realized or I had the thought that manual transmission is my fidget toy in the car. It actually helps me engage deeper with the driving process, and when I don't have that, I start to lose it. That got me thinking about cars today and future autonomous cars and flying cars that are likely going to grow up being autonomous.

I realized that I'm nervous about this middle point. I'm nervous about this point where cars are taking over more and more of what the driver does but not everything, and that people like myself that maybe have a little bit of a cognitive issue there are going to have a more difficult time staying engaged.

Where there isn't an automated safety feature in place, we might even disengage so far that we're starting to become more dangerous. For me in this, there's huge potential for people with disabilities to take advantage of flying cars, autonomous cars, all that stuff. For me, I want to be on one side of the fence or the other. I'm nervous about our transition there.

Jeremy Curry: There was a one really great quote from Brad Templeton. He's a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who's served as one of the consultants on Google self-driving project. I love his quote because it really defines the essence of the issues we have with other drivers even today.

 

People drive around, and there's road rage, all sorts of things, but he said, "I love the idea of being able to go out in my backyard and hop into my flying car." Then, he follows that up with, "I hate the idea of my next-door neighbor having one."

[laughter]

Mark: Exactly. That's well put. Well put. Personally, too, I either want to be changing gears and having a good time and having driving me an event, or I want to read my tablet or take a nap. I want one of those two things happening. I don't want to be in the middle. I just don't.

 

We are seeing people especially this upcoming generation, the millennials, starting to disengage from the driving process. It's just an interesting phenomenon but I wonder what consequences are there, especially for people like my son and I who need a little activity to keep us engaged.

Jeremy: It's like all the people that walk around with smart phones in their face, especially if you're at the airport, and they are walking around. They completely forget they're even walking and then just run into everybody. Think the concept.
Mark: It is and it's the same idea. I'm one of those people that puts that phone away because I like to be in the moment with what I'm doing, whether it's driving a car or walking to the airport or just sometimes sitting. Disengaging from the technology is important.
Jeremy: It could be that the market shifts a little bit. For example, Uber has been working with this as well and that they're even going to launch some of this in Dubai this year.
Mark: That's right. They have announced that they're attempting to launch Uber Air, which utilizes a flying-bus-type technology by 2020.
Jeremy: Can you imagine if you didn't have to [inaudible 15:01] car, all you had to do is get on your smartphone and just say, "I need an Uber." It's there in two minutes and it costs you the same as any other Uber, because you could be anywhere.

 

It doesn't even need a driver probably at some point, so you could just completely eliminate even having any cars. Just like my doctor said, "In probably 25 years, it'll be illegal to drive one."

Mark: That will be the reality for the children being born today. That's what I fear. That's how I feel like. Here's the other brilliant thing that relates to accessibility, too, is that it will be an equalizer. You, as a person who legally can't drive anymore, will have equal opportunity to travel around to somebody who's fully sighted that can drive.
Jeremy: Absolutely. I live in Northern Indiana where we do have cities, but of course, there's also corn fields and soy bean fields and almost no public transportation, no train transportation. If I want to get somewhere, I'm very heavily dependent upon my wife or somebody else in my family, where if I could just use a technology to call an Uber.

 

Right now, today, there's Uber in a city near me but not in the city that I live in. If those things were flying, that makes it much more efficient and effective to be able to reach further out areas. You're right. It's a great equalizer as far as traveling. You could just go anywhere despite what abilities you have.

Mark: Jeremy, we're starting to round out our time here a little bit. What I want to do real quickly is just go over some of the things that people are thinking about when it comes to flying cars, because the audience is probably interested.

 

We'll definitely post some of the research we've done, so you can look into it further, and then I'd like your last thoughts on the accessibility piece of this. Flying cars, there's definitely some technological challenges. We mentioned the battery. That's a big one.

The other interesting thing I found from the physics of things is that if you look at that drone-quadcopter-type thing, that's definitely something people are working, looking at, and trying to utilize. I think that the Kitty Hawk is in that realm.

The challenge being that, in that scenario, forward momentum takes a lot of energy, so you can hover, you can go up and down, get off the ground; but moving it forward is really inefficient. Of course, when you use a wing and you accelerate it forward, the energy usage is much more efficient for that forward movement but then you have the challenge of getting the thing off the ground.

This vertical takeoff is a critical piece. A large part of what people are really trying to work out right now is that issue. How do we have vertical take-off and how do we have forward momentum both in an efficient way?

There's an interesting one out there. It's called VTOL. It's the acronym for vertical take-off and landing.

There's an interesting car out there that will post where they actually have a whole series of fans like tiny jets.

They move that on the wing so it can face straight down and give you that lift off vertical lift off and then it can move and give you that winged flight and take advantage of both of them. There's definitely some people out there that are doing a good job thinking about this. I don't want to bore everybody with all the details around that stuff.

Just know that and that we've got some stuff for you to look at posted, if you're interested in digging into it a bit. Last thoughts on how this is going to affect accessibility and the way we do things.

Jeremy: We've seen so many changes over the years even in the last 10, 20 years or since the American with Disability Act came out in 1990. This is just another thing that's going to push forward that change. One of the great things about technology is you mentioned is it's faster than legislation.

 

This is one of those technologies I believe it's going to push the legislation forward, rather than the legislation pushing the other direction. Which is really perfect for people with disabilities and it's great for everyone.

It's not just specific to people with disabilities. I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to flying around like George Jetson someday.

[laughter]

Mike: Does that mean Darren's going to be outside of your sky rise apartment on a treadmill hanging over the city?
Jeremy: Yes, that's exactly what it means. He'll probably have a little collar on him that will translate his barks into speech. [laughs]
Mike: This will be nice. Do you really want that? [laughs]
Jeremy: No, no I don't.

 

[laughter]

Mike: I feel like a guide dog would be extra sarcastic like, "Would you stop? You idiot. There's a car coming." I think that that's what you would hear.

 

[laughter]

Mike: Right now he's very polite because he can't speak.

 

[laughter]

Jeremy: I'm sure we would probably play off of each other's snarkiness, too.
Mike: Maybe it'd be more fun like that buddy your ripping with all the time.
Jeremy: That's right. [laughs]
Mike: Any last words from Darren?
Jeremy: I think he's just waking up from his 8-hour nap that he takes while I sit at my computer and work. Once he's snoring I think he's good.
Mike: He says, " I don't care about flying cars. Take me for a walk."

 

[laughter]

Jeremy: Let me work, please. Let me work. That's what he wants to do all the time.
Mike: That's right. All right. Thank you so much. Thank you guys for listening. This is Mark saying thanks to Jeremy and Darren, and thanking you guys for listening. Tune in next time for the next podcast, which I think we're probably going to dig into the autonomous car a little bit deeper.

 

[background music]

Announcer: The IAP, Interactive Accessibility Podcast, is brought to you by interactive accessibility. The accessibility experts. You can find our access matters blog at interactiveaccessibility.com/blog

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