Great article. I’ve thought about many of these issues, but you definitely raised a few I hadn’t considered. Here are a couple I think could fit on your list
- A separate subscription to a ‘long-haul’ fleet will exist for consumers. An autonomous vehicle specifically designed to be safe at high speeds will zip people down something that resembles our existing freeway network. Using software, or some form of physical connection, to stay in touch, distances that used to take 2 hours to drive will now take less than 1. These ‘auto-trains’ will form and break up intelligently based on upcoming destinations. As you suggested, there may eventually be some sort of pod system that will work in a modular pod-like manner. For now, a transportation hub will exist at each off-ramp where riders can switch to local fleets. Short distance commuter airplane flights will cease to exist.
- While there will continue to be a move to urban living, rural living will also be made more attractive by autonomous vehicles. Whereas bedroom communities were typically built at a commuting distance of no more than 30–45 minutes from downtown areas, those who need to be in the office for work, will be able to start and finish their days on the road with a mobile office capable car. This might double or triple the distance people are willing to live from work (the average max distance is around 35 minutes). This will impact real estate prices and make small town living a very real option even for those who work downtown.
- I believe the perfect place to test the first entirely self-contained autonomous vehicle community is at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. All existing parking lots could be relocated to the exterior of the property. Guests would then take an autonomous shuttle direct to their destination. At first, these would be fixed routes, but as problems are worked out and software continues to improve, concepts like car pooling, supply chain automation, pizza delivery, how to handle crowds when 20,000 people all leave the Magic Kingdom at the same time when the park closes, etc can be worked out. Walt Disney World covers an area about twice the size of Manhattan and houses about 200,000 people at any time, some overnight and some on a day basis. The first autonomous fleet manufacturer to recognize this and partner with Disney will have a large advantage in that 44 million guests a year will be exposed to their brand and technology.