Eliminating steering wheels will transform our lives, and business, not just the way we travel.
I recently declared my passion for the introduction of driver-less cars. I don’t know when this technology will become omni-present, but I do know that a number of significant organisations are actively working on it. Early published material suggests that it is eminently viable with today’s technology, never mind the capabilities yet to be invented with new-tech.
Being a Director and ambassador for Wayra, I get to meet some of the greatest entrepreneurs and technologists on Earth. Last week I heard a comment that before a new technology is launched, it is possible to estimate the size of the impact it is likely to yield on our lives by assessing how absurd it sounds prior to launch.
I have personal experience of this - at O2 I used to be accountable for the sale of mobile technology to small businesses in the UK - as little as two months before the launch of iPhone in 2007, if you’d asked small businesses owners if they’d want a device:
- with no buttons;
- that gave them access to data and the web, (“I don’t want to do email when I’m out of the office”);
- from a manufacturer that wasn’t Nokia;
- and cost three times the price of their current device:
… they would have laughed you out of the room.
And yet, now millions of small business owners cannot be separated from their beloved iPhone (currently, me included).
Generally I think our curiosity about driver-less cars stops at the incredulity of being in a car that has no driver - and yet despite flying being a far more tricky thing, we are quite happy to be passengers of an auto-pilot. I suspect that the apparent absence of lamp-posts at 30,000 feet is all the reassurance we need.
But the introduction of driver-less car technology will change everything:
- While travelling, we’ll be able to do things other than steering
- There’ll be no need to worry about parking - just send the car away when you arrive
- And if the car does not need to be parked, why not let other people have use of it while it is unoccupied - cars will become communally owned
- The emphasis will shift from the vehicle being the primary product / brand to mobility being the primary service / benefit (Green Tomato Cars will take over the world)
- Cars will operate 24/7, thereby achieving maximum efficiency
- Eeking-out extra miles per gallon will become irrelevant compared to the environmental impact of substantially reducing the volume of vehicles manufactured by eg. 20%
- Cars will avoid traffic jams - they will avoid creating traffic jams as well as avoid joining one
- They will avoid accidents too - they will literally be impossible to crash
- Crash prevention will avoid the thousands of deaths and serious injuries annually on our roads - and the accompanying medical / legal / insurance costs
- Roads will no-longer need to be lined with signs (hardware) telling humans how they should drive
- Residential streets will no-longer be lined with parked cars - they will be cleared of the thousands of pounds of idle assets that fill extra lanes currently designated solely for the parking of cars
- Residents will eventually reclaim the parking spaces in their streets; re-landscape parking-spaces for the community to enjoy; and enable our children to play in these new green spaces
But I think this list, which is not exhaustive and whose benefits I’ve not attempted to quantify, misses the point. I think this technology, like the introduction of mobile-phones will change the very fabric of society and the routine of daily human existence.
I think we will come to value more (profoundly more) the importance of who we choose to spend our time with in real-life face-to-face meetings / conversations.
But perhaps more important than the behavioural impact, is the impact that driver-less cars will have on business. New commercial opportunities, new industries even, that will be invented as a result of the introduction of this new technology.
And I think it will be down to entrepreneurs to recognise these opportunities and embrace them at an embryonic stage; possibly at times when everyone around them will think their idea to be absurd; have the imagination and the courage to recognise the new commercial potential, grab it, and build viable, vibrant and successful new businesses out of it. Businesses that will provide new services to enrich our lives, and importantly, also provide meaningful employment.
I’ll post a couple of examples on this blog to help bring to life what such future businesses might look like, related to driver-less car technology.
Yes, by now you’re probably getting the idea: yes, my photo; yes, the steering wheel belonging to the car which belongs to me. As a reformed petrol-head I have had the privilege to have owned and driven some amazing cars, (including a 1967 VW Karmann Ghia Type 1 convertible, which I owned for ten years). This steering wheel does not belong to one of those - it belongs to a Hybrid.