As if 2016 weren’t volatile enough for the technology industry, the coming year is likely to be even more interesting, thanks to everything from a very unpredictable new U.S. president to a confluence of trends ranging from artificial intelligence to virtual reality to the continued rise of the cloud. This is the latest in a series of predictions by SiliconANGLE’s staff on what’s coming in 2017 in enterprise and emerging technologies and tech at large.
Truly driverless cars will remain in park in 2017 – and beyond
Judging by the number of headlines in recent months, it might seem as if the arrival of driverless cars is imminent. Companies such as Google Inc. and Apple Inc. have been experimenting with the technology for years, while Tesla Motors Inc.’s Autopilot mode is said to have clocked up over 200 million miles already. Traditional car makers across the world are scrambling to put self-driving software into their vehicles.
But while it seems inevitable that self-driving cars will hit the road en masse at some point, the reality is it’s unlikely to happen any time soon. For one, it’s currently unlawful to operate a driverless car in any country in the world. The only self-driving cars that are allowed on the road are experimental vehicles, and even these must have a driver in the car at all times, ready to assume control at any moment, which means they don’t truly fit the definition of “driverless.”
The problem is that regulators are unlikely to ease up anytime soon, even if the technology that drives them is sound. Speaking at the Mobile World Congress in 2015, Renault Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said that even though the technology is ready, regulatory and cyber security issues mean it likely take at least 10 years before driverless cars are common on the road.
Urban drone delivery will come sooner than you think
If you don’t see self-driving vehicles on the road, just look up. Just as with driverless cars, drone technology has moved faster than the regulators, to the point that unmanned aerial vehicles operated by hobbyists are a fairly common sight in U.S. skies these days. One of the most exciting potential commercial applications is drone deliveries from the likes of Amazon.com Inc. and Google Inc.
Amazon’s Prime Air delivery service may still be some way off because present rules forbid flying drones out of the operator’s line of sight, but that doesn’t mean the idea of drone deliveries will stay grounded for long. Some companies will take advantage of the existing legal framework to begin operating short-range drone delivery services. In the U.S., companies such as Domino’s Pizza and 7-Eleven have already carried out short range test deliveries using drones (above), and there are no laws in place that prohibit them or other companies from offering such a service. And you thought pizzas couldn’t fly.
Bitcoin will not only survive but more than double in value by year-end
For much of 2016, the virtual currency Bitcoin found itself mired in doubt thanks to high-profile fraud cases, a lack of understanding among many people, and volatility in its value. One pundit even wrote a Bitcoin obituary.
But Bitcoin could be flying high again in 2017. Indeed, recently it has rallied in value, soaring from the $750 range to over $900 in the space of a few days. And experts think the run isn’t over. One of the most bullish predictions comes from Daniel Masters, co-founder of the multimillion-dollar Global Advisors Bitcoin Investment Fund PLC, who reckons the cryptocurrency could soar above $4,400 by the end of next year. Other experts predict more modest increases. Then there’s Civic Technologies Inc. CEO Vinny Lingham, who predicted last May that Bitcoin could reach $3,000 at some point in 2017.
Why the renewed interest? Among the possible reasons are Donald Trump’s unexpected U.S. presidential election win, the economic downturn in China and India’s cash crisis, all of which has driven some investors to what they believe is a safer haven. Those uncertainties no doubt will carry over into 2017, helping to propel Bitcoin to record highs in the next 12 months.