Flying cars, autonomous snow plows and solar roadways are all examples of disruptive technologies, and they could be debuting in North Dakota faster than you think.
"We truly are moving into the age of 'The Jetsons,'" said moderator Marlo Anderson, at the first-ever DisruptWell Technology Summit in Bismarck on Tuesday. "Imagine traveling to Fargo and never having to touch the steering wheel ... That's three hours of travel time where you can do work, call your mom...it'll make family life a lot better and a lot easier."
Hundreds of people gathered at Bismarck State College's National Energy Center of Excellence to discuss disruptive technologies, a term made popular by Clayton Christensen's 1997 book “The Innovator's Dilemma."
Disruptive technologies alter the way things are done, creating a new market and forcing others to adapt to it. While companies often plan to make incremental improvements to the way they do business, disruptive technologies completely change it.
North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum was the keynote speaker at the event, in which several panels were formed to discuss technological advances in transportation, healthcare, energy and education.
Ride-sharing services are considered a disruptive technology. Uber and Lyft are now available in 54 communities across the state, noted Tom Sorel, director of the North Dakota Department of Transportation.
Uber drivers not only share rides, they share the road...with snow plows.
"We believe we can equip some of our snow plows with autonomy," said Sorel, noting that snow plow operators often fear for their lives.
"My goal is to have zero fatalities on North Dakota highways," he added, noting that the implementation of driver-assist technology and autonomous vehicles could potentially reduce the number of car crash fatalities.
The development of solar roadways - roads with markings that illuminate at night after a day's worth of charging from the sun's rays - is another disruptive technology receiving approval from Molly Barnes, vice president of Northern Improvement.
"No more disappearing lines from the snow and snow plows," she said.
Also on hand was a panel of healthcare professionals to discuss telemedicine, team-based healthcare and advances in stem cell research and aortic valve replacement.
Advances in medicine make it possible for fat-derived stem cells to be used to accelerate healing after a surgery or help to regenerate tissue, said Craig Lambrecht, executive vice president of Sanford Health.
“Some say we're just getting started (with technology) and it's just a function of time," said Bismarck Mayor Mike Seminary. “Nothing will happen overnight, but a lot is going to happen quickly because it already is."
Planning is already underway for next year's summit, which is slated for Sept. 18, 2018.