Preamble: Intermittently, I will be introducing some columns which introduce some seemingly outlandish concepts. The purpose is a bit of humor, but also to provoke some thought. Enjoy.
Forbes recently reported that Tesla reached a market capitalization of $100B. It is an astounding achievement for a car company which has now successfully delivered over 350,000 cars in 2019 alone. The cars are in high demand because of many factors, but two of the most prominent in the minds of its consumers are the notions of sustainability and autonomy.
On sustainability, Tesla certainly seems “greener” than conventional automobiles with the electric fuel source. There are still “green” costs to building, maintaining, and disposing of the automobiles. The electric fuel source moves the cost of generation towards larger and presumably more efficient power plants. On autonomy, Tesla’s autopilot is at the forefront of autonomous vehicle technology, and features such as “come to owner,” certainly strike the imagination. There are still “issues” to be managed such as the level of autonomy and legal frameworks, but it is a very good product.
Is there a better alternative ?
How about an old fashioned donkey?
Yes, it is an outrageous suggestion, but let’s go through the analysis.
On autonomy, who would you trust more to avoid collisions? Or have a homing mechanism (which avoids trouble)? Or avoid doing one of a hundred things connected with conventional self preservation? And guess what? As discussed in a previous article, the legal framework around equine autonomy is fairly well-established. Problem solved!
On sustainability, what could be greener than a donkey? The input is grass. In addition, there is no green impact to building one or disposing of one. It’s all organic. Since they are organic living creatures, they can be pets. One cannot say that about a Tesla. The best part is that with two donkeys, you can build more on your own! An appreciating asset !
Now, let’s handle the objections:
Trip Length and Time: Yes, donkeys are great, but you are not going over a couple of miles on them (with cart) in any timeframe of interest. Agreed, they are not good for highway driving. However, with the move to New Urbanism, cities should get denser. Perhaps donkeys can be a good solution for “the last mile” problem?
Handling the “Output:” In the early part of the 20th century, the large problem with equine transportation was the “output.” Indeed this is a big problem. However, if an iRobot can vacuum up a house, it would seem Tesla could invent an automated street cleaner with autopilot technology. It will likely look like it comes from Mad Max —but as long as it works!
Overall, this is “obviously” a nonsensical idea, but it is interesting to note the natural inherent advantages provided by biological systems.