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Randal Beard, professor of Electrical Engineering and the recipient of BYU’s Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Faculty Lecturer Award, delivered the Forum address on Tuesday. He discussed the technology in autonomous vehicles and how he anticipates the field progressing in the future.

“The drone revolution is upon us,” Beard said of his research about self-flying vehicles.  

We already have many examples of autonomous vehicles in our society, including autonomous vacuum cleaners, Mars rovers, self-driving Uber vehicles and drones, Beard noted. The technologies that make these vehicles possible are also common in our society, including GPS, low-cost computers and high energy density batteries.

“Currently there are major advances happening in two related areas: autonomous aircraft systems and self-driving car technology. In the future, these technology thrusts will converge and will result in the next revolution of self-flying cars,” said Beard.

Before self-flying vehicles become a reality, however, we must address many questions. Beard cautioned that legal, ethical and practical questions will have implications on the advancement of autonomous vehicles.

Still, self-flying vehicles are likely to become a reality in the near future. Beard outlined his best guess at a timeline for the technology. Within five years, those with a lot of money may be able to purchase a self-flying vehicle for recreation. In ten years, self-flying taxis may be available in urban areas. In twenty years, self-flying cars will likely be common and affordable.

Beard concluded by sharing that the Lord can help us with our advancement and understanding, even in technical fields. “The world needs hardworking individuals with technical expertise who are also in a position to receive the direction and guidance that the Lord is able and is willing to give,” said Beard.

“You can be one of those individuals! Plead with heaven for help in school, that you might be prepared for your future career. When you are in those careers, plead with heaven for help, and then go to work and do your best.”

Next Devotional: Michael Orme, Assistant to the President—General Counsel

The next BYU Devotional address will be given by Michael Orme, Assistant to the President—General Counsel on Tuesday, June 5, at 11:05 a.m., in the de Jong Concert Hall.

His remarks will be broadcast live on BYUtv, BYUtv.org (and archived for on-demand streaming), KBYU-TV 11, Classical 89 FM, BYU Radio and will be archived on speeches.byu.edu.