I test drove a Tesla. This was mostly for my son who is fascinated by these cars because they are electric. I saw them as a bit of a gimmick. An electric car. Really? In my imagination, it was a souped-up golf cart. I imagined I'd have to turn the wheel all the way to the left for it to back up, like in bumper cars.
Oh, how wrong I was.
Teslas are amazing cars. The acceleration is breathtaking, the ride is a pleasure, and the self-driving feature mind-blowing.
Even better: since they have fewer moving parts and get rid of pesky little things like transmissions, engines and exhaust systems maintenance is going to be a breeze.
But wait there is more.
Solar roads are a concept dreamed up by a couple in Sandpoint Idaho. These roadways are more resilient than asphalt, generate electricity and connect to the grid. They have sensors that can detect things like animals crossing the road or a defect in the road itself and communicate with the cars that are driving on them.
They also melt snow, which anybody in cold climates can appreciate; no more snow plows, no more snowy roads.
So, here is the scenario: if we move to electric cars that can drive themselves and solar roads that can charge cars and communicate road conditions we have created an entirely new infrastructure.
We'd be able to get in our car in New York headed for Florida, watch a movie, sleep a full night and arrive the next day.
Though, since the cars would be talking to each other and have good information about the quality of the roads they would be able to travel much faster - a trip that takes 16 hours now might only take 6 to 8 hours.
We may end up programming our cars to go slower, so we get a full night's sleep.
This scenario is completely doable today with existing technology. But it will take change. We will need to up fuel standards to hundreds of miles to the gallon and make significant infrastructure investments.
We will have to think differently about how we manage our electrical grid and how we manage traffic.
Or, we can stick with what we have today. Dirty cars that are a pain to maintain using fuels that are damaging the environment while they limit our ability to shift and change the system.
The choice is ours. And if you have any doubts, try a Tesla.