Seth’s Cut: Seeing is believing

(Photo: metamorworks/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)
(Photo: metamorworks/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)
Seth Jones
Seth Jones

2024 is off to a fast start! I’m writing this column outdoors again with a strange car parked next door to my Morton Building: a rental Chevy Malibu I’ll be driving tomorrow morning to attend Grow! 2024 in Des Moines, Iowa. The good folks at The Grow Group are even giving me a panel to moderate. Let’s go!

I’m fresh off a short trip to Overland Park, Kan., where I attended Ryan Reunion hosted by Ryan Lawn & Tree. Even more recently, I returned home from a few days in Phoenix, where I attended a conference for the golf course maintenance industry.

Speaking of strange cars, it was in Phoenix that we all saw a sight to see: the Waymo, a driverless taxi service. These auto-pilot cars are currently offered in Phoenix and San Francisco, with Los Angeles and Austin ‘coming soon.’ The vehicles are recognizable for their Waymo branding, the sensors all around them, a spinning lidar on the roof and obviously … for the lack of a driver.

As one stopped next to the pub where a group of us were sitting, someone looked at the vehicle and scoffed, “Can you believe they’re allowing driverless vehicles here? Not me!”

Maybe it was the long day mixed with the cold drink, but I had to admit: I do believe. Seeing is believing. I suddenly found myself griping for the future like a reverse Grandpa Simpson from The Simpsons.

“In 100 years, do you know what this same conversation will be? ‘Can you believe, back in the day, they used to let people drive cars? Yeah and they were texting all the time, totally distracted!’” I said. Apparently, I was just getting warmed up, as I raised my glass. “Then they’ll say, ‘Even worse, people would get behind the wheel after having consumed a few drinks! And you won’t believe this part — they even let teenagers drive! Isn’t that wild?’’’

Seeing the Waymo coast down the streets of Phoenix was a cold dose of reality for me. Yes, they’ll crash some cars. This is a nascent technology. But do I really think this technology will slow down? No way. Are we worried about autonomous mowers? Friends, they’re figuring out ways to transport men, women and children in vehicles traveling 65 mph and over with no driver. That makes a robotic mower stopping for a dog or not scalping the lawn sound like child’s play.

If you have my job, you better be a believer. My 1964 Chevy Impala and my scores of 1960s comic books say that I’m gripping too tightly to the past, which I’m fine with. But despite my nostalgia, I won’t pump drum brakes on an idea, a technology or a new way of thinking until it’s been thoroughly vetted. Why do you think I travel so much? It’s not just to meet with the industry but also to see what’s new, what is being embraced and, conversely, what is getting laughed at.

In this month’s cover story, we write about the 2023 LM Growth Summit and give a moment to each of the event’s partners to share a message with you, the reader. These were direct quotes and talking points made by each company. Only about 40 lawn care operators were there to hear it in person, but I’m happy we’re able to give these messages a larger audience by sharing them here. Some of the new technologies discussed at that event could really bring a change to your business in the future.

And I’ll share this message with you: seeing is believing. Just like my moment of seeing a driverless car drop off passengers outside that pub in Phoenix, it’s hard to say what technology is coming next or how soon. But you and me — let’s keep our eyes open.

Photo: Seth Jones

Seth Jones

Seth Jones is is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. A graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Seth was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. He has more than 23 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories.

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