Originally published: July/August 2017
I learned a new term recently called “disruptive technology.” This caused me to reflect on the advances in technology over the past century that have changed our lives in a good way. Disruptive technology is one of those innovations that changes almost everything we do. For instance, email replaced handwritten letters, cell phones replaced landlines, Internet streaming is replacing cable television, and the list goes on and on.
Looking back, one of the most disruptive new technologies of the 20th century was the automobile; it changed the way we do things. Cars are now an integral part of our daily lives. But things weren’t always that way. In 1902, there were only 23,000 cars in the United States—compared to 17 million horses for transportation and work.
Most of the country’s roads were designed for horse-drawn buggies. Traveling by car on those dirt paths was as dangerous as it was frustrating. They were dusty in the dry season and bottomless mud pits after a heavy rain. What’s more, the maps available to motorists at the time were based on converted railroad maps—and were almost always wrong.
As cars became more and more popular, roads and maps had to change. When AAA Colorado was first incorporated in 1922, Colorado’s only completely paved highway ran from Denver to Morrison. All other roads were dirt. AAA Colorado soon led the fight before the legislature to fund and improve Colorado’s roads. The newly formed AAA Colorado donated nearly 2,000 highway signs to the State of Colorado, and was responsible for numbering the state’s highways.
At AAA Colorado, we understand how new technologies can change almost everything—seemingly overnight. As we look to the future, we will continue to provide our members the tools to take advantage of those changes.
AAA Colorado rolled out the country’s first electric vehicle charging truck that is able to get an electric vehicle charged and on the road again in a matter of minutes. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is renowned for its research on everything from the impact of smartphones on distracted driving to technological developments in car safety and beyond. We’ve re-invented roadside assistance so that our members know just when their tow truck will arrive through real-time tracking on the AAA mobile app. This past year, we emerged as a leading voice in the legislative discussion about self-driving cars. And our Southglenn retail store recently became the first private location in the state to offer DMV services through a cutting-edge kiosk. Arapahoe County residents can now renew their license plates without waiting in long lines.
It has been said that the only thing that is constant in life is change. If anything, history has shown that change doesn’t disrupt AAA. It drives us.