At the Smart Data Car Data congress of the Automobilwoche, I discussed on the topic „Autonomous Driving – Disruption or Hype?“ You may ask: Is Anja now an expert for autonomous driving?! Certainly not. But the discussion about what effects autonomous driving will have is not only a technical one, but also a social one. And there are some radical changes that immediately come to mind.
I personally commute a lot between Stuttgart and Berlin. You know how it is: Often you have to get up very early to be in the other city on time for your appointments. Or you might even spend a night in a hotel, because there is no train or plane connection after the dinner or the event. Then I dream of fully autonomous vehicles that pick me up and literally bring me to my destination in my sleep. Don’t they already exist, you say? Sure, in trains with sleeping compartments I also reach my destination well-rested – but only where the timetable allows me to go.
Virtually any destination within an eight-hour driving distance can be reached in your sleep.
Thanks to autonomous mobility, I can go anywhere at any time. It’s pretty easy to imagine what this means for the airline, train and hotel industries in the long run. Virtually any destination within an eight-hour driving distance can be reached in your sleep. There is already an MVP for this. The Ridecabin runs overnight from L.A. to San Francisco and vice versa. The bus even makes a small detour to reach the eight-hour sleep time.
Travelling while sleeping is obviously part of the „3rd living space“ concept, which defines cars as the third area of life alongside home and office. OEMs and suppliers have been working for several years to answer the question: What do I actually do with the lifetime when I don’t have to drive? One possible answer: working efficiently. We know from user studies that many people want to use their time in an autonomous vehicle for exactly this purpose.
What do I actually do with the lifetime when I don’t have to drive?
This is of particular strategic importance for OEMs. Because up to and including level 4 of autonomous driving (the scale ranges from level 1 – assisted driving to level 5 – autonomous driving), it will not be allowed to use one’s own device while driving. Thus „Laptop on your lap“ is not only uncomfortable, but also illegal up to level 4, giving OEMs the chance to bring their infotainment systems back into play in the battle against laptops, tablets and smartphones. We are currently working on making working in the car with an infotainment system safe, easy and also fascinating. This includes, for example, the ability to participate in video conferences while driving. It’s not just about automatic dial-in, but also about the special context. Our solutions have to take into account, for example, that the person opposite me is distracted or has to take over control of the vehicle at short notice.
Yes, working is a good pastime. But at some point I’m through with my documents – and the passing landscape doesn’t really captivate me in the long run. How wonderful that autonomous driving turns me from pilot to passenger. The possibilities for distraction are manifold, especially since the car itself becomes much more of a computer and data space.
Imagine it like a ride in an amusement park.
For example, the Munich start-up holoride – a spin-off from Audi – combines virtual realities with the driving situation for passengers. Where the vehicle is going, where it is currently heading, how fast it is going – all this is „elastic content“ for holoride, which is linked to computer-generated images. Imagine it like a ride in an amusement park, but in a car and with a VR headset. Unfortunately, I haven’t tried holoride myself yet, but it looks pretty much fun – and is supposed to help against travel sickness. This video gives you a first impression.
The car as an amusement park doesn’t sound so bad, does it? But vehicles could just as well become mobile online stores. Let me take a quick look at that: Car companies will sell their fleets to cities, airlines, railroads, car rental companies, retailers and of course all the other technology giants that are likely to become mobility providers as well. The result will be a massive supply, low demand and falling prices. Mobility could become practically free of charge and give rise to new business models.
Hype or no hype, when autonomous driving comes, there will be great disruption in more areas than just mobility.
Companies could offer their customers a free trip to their shops or, in another scenario, free trips to and from work. The prerequisite is that the consumer is willing to browse the online marketplace of the brand or retailer while travelling. This is a win-win situation for brand and customer, in which we no longer necessarily have to pay for mobility with money.
My conclusion will not surprise you: Hype or no hype, when autonomous driving comes, I believe that there will be great disruption in more areas than just mobility. It is high time to prepare ourselves for this.
So what do you think?
Will autonomous driving disrupt our society? And which areas of life will it affect? I’m looking forward to your opinions!