It saddens me to say it, but we are approaching the end of the automotive era. – Bob Lutz (Automotive News)

Why is former, high profile auto executive Bob Lutz declaring the end of the automotive era? Fully autonomous, “standardized modules.” Lutz believes the future is fleets of autonomous vehicles zipping around. You will likely not have a car in your garage. Or whatever they call that space in the future.

There are of course, skeptics. Those that think fully autonomous vehicles are still a “moonshot.” Whether you think autonomous vehicles are right around the corner or still a ways off the technology is rapidly advancing. How we travel and live is going to change.

The autonomous car isn’t the result of some eureka moment in a lab somewhere. It is the accumulation of a series of breakthroughs and technologies assiduously applied to the problem at hand. Ten years ago the US government agency DARPA conducted the Urban Challenge for self-driving vehicles. This competition catalyzed the researchers working on these technologies. This article by Bloomberg and this podcast from Startup highlight the importance of this event in helping to kick off the commercial race to an autonomous vehicle.

For example, this week Waymo, a Google company, demonstrated a fully autonomous vehicle to reporters. It was small, incremental work that made this possible. Mike Montemerlo of Waymo said:

“We’re getting very close..There’s more that needs to be done, but there’s a world of difference between where we are now and where things were 10 years ago.”

Ten years is a long time, but considering the challenge of self-driving cars it really isn’t. This story of the DARPA challenge highlights the effect that small actions, compounded can really have. For whatever reason there has been a number of bloggers talking about the importance of taking action, however small.

Seth Godin who blogs on a daily basis wrote about the effect of putting up 7000+ blog posts. He wrote:

Over time, the blog adds up. People remember a blog post a year after I wrote it. Or they begin a practice, take an action, make a connection, something that grows over time. The blog resonates with people in so many fields, it’s thrilling to see how it can provoke positive action.

Positive action is what is is all about. James Osborne at Bason Asset talks about how small changes, enacted daily have made a difference in his life:

Do one small thing today that, if repeated consistently, will change your life in five years. And try to do it again tomorrow.

Howard Lindzon in a recent post talks about how journalling i.e. blogging, makes a big difference for him:

It helps me think. It keeps me mostly honest. I have endless opinions, but searching for links is research…trying to remember which smart person said what a month ago or year ago helps me check my work and rethink a big (often loose) hypothesis.

For Howard, and others, doing something like this every day has knock-on effects in their lives. Carl Richards talks about how ‘micro-actions’ can have positive knock-on effects. He writes:

Micro-actions are actions so small, so easy, that they hardly feel worth doing. When we think of things like this (if we ever do) we often think about how taking one small action, repeatedly, over long periods of time, adds up. It’s the compounding effect of incremental change, and it’s awesome.

Compounding is awesome. Nick Maggiulli at Of Dollars and Data has a post up that clearly illustrates the power of financial compounding, i.e. saving early and often and letting those dollar grow over time. While the effects of compounding on money is great, Maggiulli notes that the effects are more interesting in other aspects of our lives. He writes:

Remember, you are a fractal of yourself. What you do on one day you likely do on most days. You may not notice these actions on a daily basis just like you probably don’t notice yourself getting fitter and you don’t notice Voyager 1 moving away from us at 10 miles a second, every second. However, these effects are still there, compounding away.

Choosing to do something new or challenging is difficult for everyone. The benefits of doing so on a daily basis can compound. Compounding it great when it comes to money, just ask Warren Buffett, but the takeaway from the above quotes is that the most compelling outcomes come in the real world, not in our bank accounts.