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Nine Things You Should Know to Be Smart About Driverless Cars

May 31, 2017

Just a few years ago, not many people realized what digitalization of transportation would be. Now, autonomous cars are the talk of the town, and carmakers, tech giants, and start-ups are racing to stay ahead in the mercilessly competitive transformation of the mobility industry.

It could turn out to be the most profound of all digitally driven transformations. Some call it a perfect storm, because of the fast convergence between autonomous driving, electric vehicles, and connected vehicles. The convergence is explosive and will result in so many secondary effects that it’s hard to even imagine them.

Such effects will hit you too, which might get you worried. The good news, however, is that you’ve got great business opportunities ahead if you develop an understanding of these effects and build a strategy on that understanding.

To help you on the way, I will share some insights, built on my experience and focus on future, technology and digital change for individuals, organizations, and society.

Here we go:

  1. Driverless cars will save lives. Over 3,000 people get killed every day on public roads in the world—more than two people every minute (not to mention those injured). Few diseases kill more people. Autonomous cars will be safer. They never get distracted, irritated, emotional, tired or drunk. The funny thing, however, is that even if all cars were autonomous, and maybe 1,000 people were killed every day, we would not be happy. Somehow we excuse people but not machines. Be ready for this debate. Eventually, though, humans will probably not be allowed to drive cars, except for at remote locations, and in an emergency, at low speed.
  2. Jobs will be displaced big time. Autonomous cars will lead to a substantial loss of jobs. Primarily drivers—both of cars, buses, and trucks. Goldman Sachs expects the decline to be 25,000 jobs a month in the US only when vehicle saturation peaks some years ahead. Since most vehicles will be electric (see below), a secondary effect will be the loss of jobs at gas stations, garages (electric vehicles require significantly less maintenance), spare parts providers, the oil industry and more. If you have such a job, let machines do the boring tasks and focus instead on things that machines are not good at. Essentially this regards four areas—creativity, ability to motivate and convince other people, empathy, and fine dexterity. Find out which of your daily tasks are related to one of those areas and develop them further. Bus drivers could e.g. shift towards bus hostesses.
  3. Fossil fuel cars will be displaced big time. According to Stanford University economist Tony Seba, no more petrol or diesel cars, buses, or trucks will be sold anywhere in the world within eight years. A twin ‘death spiral’ will hit those vehicles—since electric vehicles are ten times cheaper to maintain than cars that run on fossil fuels and have a near-zero marginal cost of fuel, people will switch, making it harder to find a petrol station, spares, or anybody to fix an internal combustion engine. Sell your petrol or diesel car before it’s too late. One fundamental issue, however, will be how to charge massive amounts of electric vehicles. Another issue is the environmental impact of battery production. Therefore expect the need for new energy sources to provide electricity on-board—consider for example LENR.
  4. Car-owning will change. As with most digital transformations, autonomous cars will push a shift from owning to accessing. Most people will access mobility as a service, potentially at a fixed cost a month. As for owners, there are four good owning cases: 1. People who want to own a self-driving car, for convenience and status. 2. Taxi or transportation firms such as Uber, Lyft, Otto and others. 3. Car-sharing firms such as Zipcar. 4. Cars will own themselves, doing business, occasionally driving to motor vehicle inspection, repair garage etc. And if they get rich they will buy another car and become two. Or more. Get ready to choose your owning or accessing strategy.
  5. Policymakers will have to regulate. Driverless cars will require fewer parking spaces in cities, but if unregulated, they will lead to more traffic since it will be easier and cheaper to use transportation. People could, for example, choose to let the car circulate when shopping in crowded cities, and soon streets will be congested. The risk for terrorists using autonomous vehicles for attacks is obvious too. This, and more requires wise regulation.
  6. Real estate values will be affected. Locations that are a little too distant for people to commute by car today will be more attractive since you will be able to work when commuting, instead of having to drive the car. Check for such real estate opportunities, before the value increases.
  7. Car ethics will be hot. Autonomous cars will have to make decisions, and such decisions need to be certified. However, don’t expect the decisions to be clearly programmed. Autonomous cars are self-learning and will take decisions in a way similar to humans, although many decisions will be taken together with other nearby cars. The upside is that cars can learn, become better, and immediately share their knowledge with millions of other vehicles. The challenge will be how to certify such self-learning vehicles—maybe with a driving license test? Be sure to understand this as a user.
  8. Privacy to the next level. If privacy on the Internet is already a complex matter, privacy for autonomous car users will be the advanced level. An autonomous car will have AI inside to provide help, service, answers, and entertainment, while also communicating with other vehicles. This will expose your activities more than normal Internet usage does. On top of that, autonomous vehicles will know where you need or like to go, with whom and when. Think well about who can access this data.
  9. Car security will by fundamental. With so much responsibility in the hands of the car itself, cyber security for cars will be of fundamental importance. No details need to be explained. Make sure the car provider is top notch on this point.

These nine insights might help you to prepare for choices you will need to make with regard to driverless vehicles.

But also remember that huge business opportunities will emerge for digital products or services—from finance, law, entertainment or any other field—that can be mixed into the autonomous and electric mobility industry from this perspective. Start investigating today!

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Note: I also do seminars and workshops on digital transformation, and if you want a deeper look at digitalization, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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One Comment
  1. Great one! My only concern is that roads are not ready for these vehicles… Especially in some countries, Italy for example.

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