Winning and Losing in the Autonomous Vehicle Economy

Autonomous Vehicles are in the news every week. One Tesla crashed somewhere injuring its driver, one saved a life by driving it to the nearest hospital. Pilots are kicking off in a few cities. Does this not feel like we are on the way to a Star Trek economy? Soon the replicator will make our bagel and coffee in the morning, Cortana will tell us (filtered) news based upon some AI algorithm, which knows what we want to hear to reinforce our beliefs….as if the news media doesn’t do this already 😉 Accommodating the news of today, elections will be decided based upon the vote you cast with a retinal scan, voice recognition and a simple “check the box for candidate X” and ballots you are automatically served based on your voting eligibility. You may even be served (filtered) policy snippets based upon subjects you care about given your clickstream profile.

Data and rules around it can be the greatest asset or liability in this world. They can make us more powerful and engaged but also more lethargic to learn and explore alternative choices. After all, not voting is also expressing an opinion.

So what does the “Robot” economy look like when it comes to the autonomous vehicle?  Beyond the feature list on our radar screen today, here are some of the implications I envision:

Transportation

If the human variable of commandeering a vehicle from point A to point B is removed and GPS, sensors as well as preferences are all captured, managed and used for a physical transportation of a human body or cargo; what’s left? A car without windows as visibility is secondary now?

When Uber purchased Otto, they realized that an autonomous trucking fleet would be key in the ever expanding “Amazon economy”. Truckers or any kind of delivery drivers, which are already in short supply, will become obsolete.

 

Not your daddy's Buick anymore
Not your daddy’s Buick anymore

Entertainment & Electronics

When a road trip is taken over by the vehicle, the car’s interior becomes a personal entertainment or business productivity space (see Wired articles). Windows may be (temporarily) replaced by monitors, leisurely catch up of your weekly reading and food preparation (not just consumption) may occur while driving. This will enable a whole new class of small, mobile appliances people may only see in business jets and yachts today.

Retail

Your car may save you a trip to the grocery store. You already browse and purchase your groceries online and have them either locker-stored or delivered by a service to your front door. Take the human factor out and what do you have: your own self-managing grocery cart.

Insurance

Vehicle insurance premiums will drop drastically.  Some experts believe they will end up at something negligible making car insurance companies the next dinosaurs. (see recent KPMG study)

Life insurance policies should drop too as the current Tesla autopilot feature lowers the risk of a fatal crash by 30% or more.

Your car may end up browsing and preparing insurance coverage options for you as it knows his manufacturer’s warranty rate and your travel patterns.

Public Sector

Fewer accidents require fewer law enforcement officials and their equipment.

If sensors can keep your car on the straight and narrow, there will be no more traffic violations including parking, speeding and such. Municipalities, who depend on this revenue, will see their budgets collapse. They will fill this gap by taxing property even higher, cut services and infrastructure investment, increase or institute for the first time a consumption-based tax, think VAT, or all of the above.

If car sensors provide the vehicle with complete situational awareness, why need traffic signs, flash lights, street lights, and lane markings.

Real Estate

If your car can drive itself, residential homes would not need garages anymore but can utilize the largely empty parking garages in metropolitan and suburban areas overnight. This would bring down property values (smaller new homes without garages, i.e. built-out portion of property) or increase them if the existing space is converted. One could also envision the disappearance of driveways.

 

K.I.T.T., pick me up after the movie but get an oil change while you are parked
K.I.T.T., pick me up after the movie but get an oil change while you are parked

Maintenance Services

As a car may self-diagnose suboptimal performance, it can schedule and consume “Safelite®”-type maintenance visits or overnight service stops in said parking garages.

So in summary; if you are an insurer, a bank providing business loans, a municipality, a retailer or a real estate developer, I would posit to you that the same data can be your friend or foe.  Is it clean, integrated, protected and available?  You know the capacity of your parking lots; the VINs, configurations and owner profiles, their maintenance record as well as driving patterns (pick up/delivery locations), purchase history, preferences and road conditions.  Network it all together in real-time and make highly accurate predictions.  Use it to estimate, plan and execute how to compensate for future losses and revenue channel shifts to your business model today, no matter if you sell insurance coverage, food, parking or movies.

While this may read like the Jetson’s have arrived it is clear that not all of this will play out as quickly and neatly as I may have indicated but it is coming in some way and sooner than you think. Thus, here is my question: Do you want to be the next Uber or Amazon or settle for Triceratops?

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