We’re on the verge of an automotive revolution. Like cellphones, self-driving cars will go from novelty to ubiquity faster than we can imagine. Consumers will ask “why not” and exploit the technology for transportation needs beyond manufacturers imagining. Here are 20 things someone will do in the first year:
- The non-stop roadtrip – sleeping in the back of the car and waking up 500 miles closer to your destination. Unexpected consequence: even more pressure on roadside stops and motels as self-driving cars drive on by.
- The no-mom school run – sending kids off to school and having the car return home to take mom (or dad) to work. Unexpected consequence: even less quality time interacting with kids.
- The no-dad taxi service – have the car take your kids to soccer practices and bring them home later. Unexpected consequence: surprises abound with who comes home from practice and how muddy the car has become.
- The we-are-all-Amazon-now phenomenon – your cousin wants to borrow the lawn mower, send the car with it, your old neighbor has some mail for you, send the car for it, your favorite restaurant is booked tonight, send the car for takeout. Unexpected consequences: less time spent on errands more quality time with the family.
- The never pay for parking again dodge – busy city and nowhere to park? Tell the car to go find somewhere out of town and come back for you later. Unexpected consequences: even worse traffic as swarms of driver-less cars circle the city center waiting for their masters to call.
- The unhitched trailer – got a lot of luggage? Have the car follow you to the airport and then go home to await your return. Or better still send the car ahead to meet you with your luggage and save on excess baggage fees. Unexpected consequences: you’re going to need more clothes and luggage but you will be the best dressed.
- Super-duper Uber – so when your car isn’t transporting you it could be transporting someone else and you could be getting paid for it. Unexpected consequences: now you car becomes an asset and not a liability and you can afford a new one every year. There’ll be an app for that – I bet Uber is already plotting.
- MyAmbulance – out in the boonies? Aged relative? Fallen and can’t get up? Get a self-driving car to take grandpa to the clinic. Unexpected consequences: ambulances become emergency vehicles meaning everyone gets faster emergency response … until the accountants look to save money. There’ll be an app for this too – remote municipalities should be considering offering a tax breaks for anyone who offers their vehicle to be part of the MyAmbulance network.
- MyTowTruck – did you breakdown? Send for your other car to come and tow you home or give you a jump start. Unexpected consequences: AAA has fewer renewals or AAA offers an app for this and pivots to a sharing economy from their proprietary one.
- The RV is the vacation – why waste time driving the RV when you could be relaxing and enjoying the scenery and eating a home cooked meal. Nap as you haul in miles of desert freeway. Shower on those long straight stretches across the prairies. Unexpected consequences: finally puts the nail in the coffin of the RV Cruise Control myth by turning it into reality.
And then there’s all the professional changes we will see:
- Night buses will be driver-less because we’re not meant to be awake at night
- Garbage trucks will work the unsocial hours, holidays and weekends
- Long distance freight in driver-less trucks will mean cheaper deliveries
- School buses will be safer
- The garden mower will do it without you
- Parking enforcement vehicles will fine you by selfie
- Police traffic stops will be fully automated, will have a real reason to stop you, will not discriminate based on profiling, they will email your ticket and you won’t be shot
- Food trucks will make house calls
- Armored trucks will be impregnable steel blocks, un-bribe-able and won’t double park outside Safeway all the time
- The ice cream truck will be self service and not involved in any turf wars
We need to be ready for this change. It is going to affect transportation businesses profoundly. Those that embrace the change will find costs plummeting and service becoming more reliable.
It is going to liberate our home lives by giving us more time but will we spend that time wisely? Will we use the time to connect with one another more now that something else does our chores.
Will drivers become pariahs for their reckless disregard of the safety benefits of driver-less cars much the same way seat-belt-less drivers were a generation ago and cell-phoning drivers are today?
There is a shift coming to our world order. Embrace it and exploit it before it automatically and completely refuses to run you over.
This blog post was inspired by a conversation with my daughter who thinks driver-less cars may be just the craziest idea ever.