Screen time continues to be a hot topic among parents. Questions like how much is too much and what the effects of screen time might be on kids dominates conversation within parenting circles.
But, as a Millennial mom, and in the older half of my generation, I’m much more interested in the next big thing coming our way. Call it the Netflix effect, but I feel like I’ve binge read every damn article or opinion or study and there’s nothing left in my queue that focuses on children of Millennials.
What will the kids of Millennial parents be up against as they grow older? Millennials now make up 90% of new mothers which means kids of Millennials will be raised over the next 20 or 30 years considering the youngest Millennial is just entering college.
One major shift will occur around arguably the biggest milestone in a teen’s life today: getting a driver’s license. Today, Gen Xers are preparing their teens for the road by educating them on safety and the necessary skills to drive such a powerful piece of equipment (like when to throw the middle finger, for example).
They are shown YouTube PSA’s about the consequences of drinking and driving, texting and driving and karaokeing and driving. Ok, there’s not a PSA for that one, but there should be. I can get lost in a Justin Timberlake sing off.
So what happens when vehicles become autonomous and can drive themselves? Vehicle technology is advancing at a rapid pace and is poised to completely rewrite this typical coming-of-age milestone as we know it.
And if you are thinking, nah, this won’t happen for another 20 years when my kids are adults and can make their own decisions, you are wrong. Tesla is already incorporating some autonomous features into their vehicles now while Google and Ford have been testing fully autonomous vehicles for a while. Google’s self-driving cars have racked up over 2 million miles using this technology.
Business Insider suggests there will be over 10 million self-driving vehicles on the road by 2020. And to be clear, this won’t be an overnight shift. Most anticipate a transition of semi-autonomous vehicles (like what the Tesla Model S already incorporates) where there is a combination of manual control by the driver as well as the ability to be autonomous.
One thing Millennial parents may have to consider with this tech is how comfortable they will be putting their kids in vehicles solely controlled by software.
Headlines were fierce after Joshua Brown died in an accident in May of 2016 while driving his Tesla in Autopilot mode, basically their version of cruise control for autonomous vehicles. It raised questions on the safety of this technology. And while it’s a valid concern, the media did not point out some significant safety statistics that puts this one accident in perspective.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that one person dies for every 100 million miles driven in the U.S. and according to Tesla, this accident was the first fatality in 130 million miles driven on autopilot. The Department of Transportation has also attributed 94% of vehicle accidents to human error. So theoretically, if cars can communicate to one another and the road, and leave us dumb ass humans out of it, then this technology will save lives.
I for one am looking forward to the day I don’t have to be responsible for paying attention to my surroundings and hoping the car coming toward me doesn’t have a distracted driver at the wheel. Imagine being able to take advantage of all that wasted time you currently spend in your car. You could get more work done, spend time with your family and friends. Or, the more likely scenario, watch more Netflix.
But the day I put my kid in an autonomous car for the first time will surely give me pause, if even for a moment. And then my kid will tell me it will be ok, just like I did with my parents when I got behind the wheel for the first time. It’s the circle of life (cue the Lion King).
Andrea Rhoades is the creator of Selfies to Selfless, a parenting blog for Millennials. She is passionate about exploring the unique challenges the newest generation of parents face. Follow her as she reveals the hopes and dreams, fears and failures of Millennial parents. Follow Selfies to Selfless on Facebook and Twitter!