Unbundling the office building and the home
Coming from my discussion of Zeitgeist influence on automotive design over the centuries, I’d like to highlight a key thought that emerged from that thinking.
You may have read my post on the three main use cases I expect Apple Car to be built for:
- Work out
- Hang out
They align with Apple’s other product and services priorities, and give a tangible paradigm to a thing that is new on many levels.
Today, the activities above are done in buildings. You’d go to an office for work, you’d visit the gym for work out, and you hang out at your home or at a friend’s place. These are set-in-stone buildings that you go to, in order to stay there.
My hypothesis is that this will change with the advent of autonomous cars.
Prolonging a decade-old trend, people will work remotely and on the go even more. Mobile entertainment, that the smartphone revolution started, is rising in use as well. The fitness hype remains unstoppable, now among older generations as well.
The term unbundling has been coined in the early 2010s to describe the effect online had on offline. It basically means taking apart what has been considered one for ages.
Let’s apply this to buildings. They consist of rooms, but only come in a package. There are custom buildings for specific jobs, with a set of custom rooms.
People enter the buildings, but they spend most of their time in a specific room of the building. They mingle, work, live – most of life is going on inside, and this has been a trend for centuries.
Let’s assume this trend goes on, people want to spend more of their time inside a room – but another trend, traveling more and more, goes on as well.
The consequence is, that rooms need to start moving.
In comes the autonomous car. It’s design would need to be closer to what we know as a room today than to what we know as a car today.
But we don’t need these rooms to be tied together in buildings. Cars can become rooms that travel, and the unbundling can begin.
The design work now is to observe everything that is going on in a room, is not being done on the go so far, and imagine what it would take for the activity to be done in a moving room.
As soon as you start to do that, the list of possibilities grows and grows. As a proxy, let’s look at the different sectors of a typical industrial country and list everyday jobs:
Service sector jobs
- Getting a manicure
- Getting a haircut
- Doing a yoga class
Health sector jobs
- Having a medical check
- Doing a shrink session
- Seeing the fitness coach
Education sector jobs
- „Home“ schooling
- Extra help after school
- Learning an instrument
All these can be done in a moving room that is driven by an autonomous system.
The idea isn’t new, and you can tell because there are stock photos for it:
But the implications for the design of autonomous cars is unexplored, as there aren’t any vehicles on the horizon that materialize this thinking – even though there also should be enough consumer appeal of such a device beyond the business discussion above.
For instance, take recreational activities you do in your spare time or on weekends:
- Playing video games
- Working out
- Making music
- Watching TV
Is we start to unbundle the activities once physically packed into a building, we can grow our imagination beyond what’s on the market today or tomorrow.
It also has one further notion to it:
From Nomads to Settlers to Nomads?
Mankind has developed its mobility patterns over the centuries, and it all started when people lived in caves and travelled from one place to the next. Food was out in one place? Go somewhere else.
When people found that they could grow crops in a place and have their own food, they settled down. Sure, they hunted around their home base, but this development created the roots for today’s villages and towns.
The modern people have conquered the globe and travel more than any nomad before. First it was ships and trains that made long distance travel possible, then it was the airplane and the car. People would still return to their home base.
Future autonomous systems may blur the lines between the home base and the travel case. The journey is the destination. If moving replaces the staying, are going to be nomads again, or a hybrid of a settler and a nomad?