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Digital Transformation

A Driverless Future: Preparing for a Massive Vehicle Disruption

In March 2011, Sebastian Thrun, who was the founder of Google[X], did a Ted talk where he spoke about the passion he has for self-driving cars.

You can watch the full video below, but he starts his talk with the one moment, in 2009, that changed the direction of his life. It was the moment that his best friend was killed in a car accident. In an instant, his life was extinguished. Just like that.


As discussed in the book “The Industries of the Future” by Alec Ross, “Accidents are caused by the four Ds: distraction, drowsiness, drunkenness, and driver error.” What do these four Ds have in common? They are all glitches that come standard in human hardware.

Humans can make erratic mistakes that computers don’t make. Driverless cars don’t have to set down their coffee when they switch lanes, never get tired, and don’t even drink on special occasions. Yes, there is fear and trepidation at the thought of allowing a car to, quite literally, take the wheel, but the benefits far outweigh the risks (for now.)

Like it or not, the driverless car is going to be pulling into your neighborhood. It may also be coming after your job.

Will the Driverless Car Take Your Job?

In Tempe, Arizona, residents can hail a self-driving Volvo XC90 SUV using Uber. At the moment, there will be backup humans, should something go wrong, but if the driverless car becomes ubiquitous, this will put over 150,000 Uber drivers out of a job.

And that’s just the start.

Let’s take a look at how many people make a living driving a vehicle in the U.S.:

Taxi Drivers: 233,900

Truck Drivers: 3,500,000

Bus Drivers: 665,000

The elimination of just those three jobs could result in 4.3 million people needing to find new careers. The self-driving¬†car is not just a gimmick, it’s a generational disruptor.

What About Businesses That are Automotive Adjacent?

Alec Ross poses another question that is worth pondering. What would happen to parking¬†garages? “Would the cars just drive themselves back home and come back when needed? Why have your car sit in a garage and have to pay for it?”

There are at least 105 million parking lots and as many as 2 billion parking spaces in the United States. Will they still be needed? Will parking attendant positions go away? Will this reduce work for construction companies that build these structures? What about the real estate developers who earn income from the parking fees? Or the meter maids who make money off of tickets? Those initial 4.3 million jobs are just the tip of the iceberg.

In Ann Arbor, Michigan, Ford and Domino’s have teamed up to test self-driving pizza delivery. The car pulls up, you enter a code and the back window rolls down to reveal your order.

There go even more jobs.

The more you dig into the potential repercussions of this change, the larger the ripple gets.

What about drivers ed teachers?

What about insurance companies?

What about highway patrol officers?

The driverless car is just the beginning. The future is right around the corner….and you won’t even need to drive there yourself.


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Sharon Suchoval

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