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Column: What a difference a month makes

Dick Nichols' monthly column Business Beat
Dick Nichols 0020

I don’t know whether you noticed, but in the four weeks since Joe Biden became president of the United States almost all the world’s major automobile manufacturers have announced they will switch to exclusively making electric cars by 2035, the year Okotoks New Year’s baby Adeline Rose Robinson graduates from junior high

.Alberta’s signature industry already feels the impact.

Hydrocarbons will still generate electricity and provide feedstock for plastics and other synthetics. But their heyday as the energy source for cars and trucks – the main contributors to climate change – is over.

Local businesses will feel the impact too. Auto repair shops for instance. An internal combustion engine has hundreds, possibly thousands of individual parts. An electric motor has only about 20 and won’t need to be repaired.

Because it only takes 10 minutes to remove and replace an electric motor, your car will move along a track like it does at a car wash and while you enjoy a cup of coffee, it will be out with the old and in with the new.

Gas pumps will practically disappear, as will the concept of driving your car.  Self-driving cars are already practical, and while many people believe they’re not safe unless they’re behind the wheel, statistics prove them wrong.

At the rate technology is improving, traffic accident rates worldwide will plummet to less than one for every eight million kilometres driven, saving more than a million lives a year.
Of course, there will always be those who will insist on driving themselves, but their insurance rates will be so high even they will be forced to accept the inevitable.
There’s also a good chance that, for little Adeline Robinson, a family car will become something that’s only seen in a museum.

Fewer people will want the expense of owning a car in the future. When they need a ride, they’ll order a self-driving cab over the phone. It will be cheaper, and they won’t need to find a parking space. Okotoks Transit already lets you do that in our town.
Do you think I’m rushing things?
Consider this: in 1998, the Eastman Kodak Company had 170,000 employees and its principal revenue stream was the sale of photographic film.

Did it occur to you in 1998 that within three years you would never take a picture using Kodak film again?

In Chinese, the word “crisis” is written in two characters – one meaning “danger”, the other “opportunity.” The next decade will see the disappearance of businesses we thought would last forever, but that’s not all bad. We’ll also encounter wonderful new opportunities that improve our world in ways we dreamed of but didn’t expect so soon.

I’m told a new medical app will be unveiled later this year. Called "Tricorder X," it will enable your phone to scan a retina or a blood sample, and analyze 54 biomarkers that will identify nearly any disease.

I can hardly wait to beam one up.