There has been a lot in the press lately about the driverless car. A few years ago this was thought to be an impossible piece of technology, now we are trialling driverless cars in the streets of Milton Keynes. But while it’s exciting to think about the technology itself, the thing that seems to me to be most important is to think about its application.
In this blog I want to look at what the impact of the driverless car on society and also to provoke debate about how companies should be thinking about what effect disruptive technologies will have on their business. I have written before that I don’t think boards understand the pace of technology change and it’s impact.
Back to driverless cars. Let’s say it will take five to 10 years to develop and test the car and get a significant number of them on the road. These will be cars where the speed is controlled, where the distance between cars is kept to safe limits, where the robot driver is not distracted by the view or the need to text. Cars driven by robots do not suffer from tiredness or road rage.
Almost certainly the first buyers (other than the early adopters) will be company car fleets. The average driver in the UK spends 235 hours a year driving, the company car or van driver a lot more. Having all your company car drivers spared the stress of driving and able to work while they get to their destination is a significant bonus. Probably more significant is the reduction in insurance premiums and accidents that company car drivers have and that driverless cars will bring. Road deaths are beginning to increase again and if driverless cars can save nearly 2000 lives a year they will save a considerable amount of money and heartache.
That’s a good thought but let’s think about the implications:
- Emergency services will have less work
- Police forces will not need to spend time controlling speed and trying to prevent bad driving
- There will be less wear and tear on the roads – so fewer road repairs
- The DVLC can be closed down as the driving licence will be unnecessary
- Driving instructors will become redundant
- Courts will not need to spend time on traffic offences
- Car insurance should be a great deal cheaper
- Drivers will need fewer breaks, so motels and motorway services will have less business
I’d be interested in ideas to add to this list as I am sure I haven’t got them all.
A lot of jobs will be lost that are currently created by the driven motor car.
I agree with Claire Perry, the Transport Minister when she says “These are still early days but today is an important step. The trials present a fantastic opportunity for this country to take a lead internationally in the development of this new technology”
But it is also an issue that companies and politicians need to think about carefully.
If your company is involved in a business where driverless cars are a threat or an opportunity then you need to start thinking about your strategies to change your business. When Henry Ford produced the first motor car, everyone at that time was looking at how to get faster horses to pull carts.
The driverless car has seemed as impossible a thought as putting man on the moon 100 years ago. And now it is no good thinking that driverless cars will be 5 – 15 years off, so your board doesn’t need to worry about their impact. The adoption of technology follows a well-trodden path – it’s always slower than everyone thinks until suddenly it isn’t and it goes very fast. By then the companies who ignored it have been overtaken.
The driverless car is here to stay. What is it going to do to your business?