Autonomous Cars and the Future

Insights into trends in the transportation industry.

Recently there has been a lot of talk about the future of cars, with amazing companies like Tesla, Uber, Lyft and several autonomous car exits, the industry is evolving faster than ever before.

Benedict Evans has recently written a great post about Cars and Second order consequences. This has prompted me to do my own research and reveal some compelling insights in this post.

Fleet Car Parking Structures

Millennials Relationship with Cars

Most individuals aged 14–35, considered as millennials have very different relationship to cars compared to the generation before them. For us, cars are no longer representative of a status symbol that it used to be.

Instead, handheld electronic devices (iPhones, gaming consoles) are used as status symbols and our identities are no longer tied to our cars. This habit of using electronic devices, rather than cars as a status symbol also forms at an early age, thus it becomes ingrained early on in our lives.

This shift in behaviour makes it prime for autonomous cars as a service to replace car ownership.

Transportation as a Service

My previous point is the key driver that makes transportation as a service as disruptive as it is today. Millennials, especially with the integration of ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft, are starting to use transportation as a service and do not feel the need for car ownership.

However I argue that we are only getting started here. The next logical step forward is for ridesharing services and eventually autonomous cars to allow for more customization. Much like Netflix and Spotify where the content isn’t owned by users but rather paid for in a subscription model, cars will soon become the same.

This high level of customization will allow consumers to specify with great detail, what they want in their cars (light, sound etc). Whether it is a night out with friends or a date night, the car service experience will arrive customized to your liking.

Space and Time Reclaimed

In a recent a16z podcast I listened to, one of the speakers said that “in most cities, more space is used for sleeping cars than sleeping people.” This prompted me to start imagining the various use cases of space that we could reclaim once autonomous cars become a reality. Garage spaces, curb side parking and various parking lots around cities will free up and we will be able to use this space much more productively.

Additionally for most individuals, driving is not a high value experience. With autonomous cars we will be able to recapture much of our time. With this recaptured time, a lot of it will go towards media and media giants who successfully generate their own content, Netflix, Disney and Amazon will benefit greatly from this.

What this means for jobs

Often when discussing technology, entrepreneurs say they are looking to disrupt. Whether it is to disrupt an incumbent in an industry or an entire industry itself, disruption always seems to be the goal. However, what is often forgotten is that disruption means disrupting somebody and somebody gets hurt.

Even though it is clear that there will be many benefits to autonomous cars we must also acknowledge the large loss of jobs it has and will continue to create. There is no clear solution to this problem, but I am hopeful that autonomous cars despite taking away several jobs, will also generate new ones. As cars are shared and used more frequently, this will prompt a higher demand for both mechanics and cleaners. While, I do not have all the answers to the issue of job loss, openly discussing them is a great place to start.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article, if you have any questions, comments or would just like to chat feel free to reach out to me at vasiksiri@berkeley.edu