Driverless Cars: What’s On The Road for Retail and Travel

Driverless cars have long moved out of the realm of science fiction and into a new reality – and they have the power to change everything. Far from a novelty, driverless cars are going to "be the norm" within the next 10 years. "There are currently about 1.4 billion cars on the road," writes Forbes. "Many of those cars, and eventually all, are going to be replaced by self-driving vehicles." Currently, the estimate is that 25% of cars will be self-driving by 2030 – but that figure could be conservative. Several companies are making strong advancements in the realm of driverless cars.


Developments in Driverless Cars

General Motors' Cruise Automation is one of the biggest players in the self-driving car game, but it is not alone. There are currently over 50 companies involved in testing driverless cars, including Google's self-driving program Waymo. Together, the companies have logged millions of self-driving miles. In December 2017 alone, GM clocked 125,000 miles while Waymo posted more than 352,000 miles. Apple has also been active in driverless car technology. It is currently testing 45 autonomous vehicles, putting it just over Waymo and just under GM.

But not just the big players are in this race. Zoox is a robot taxi startup company who is architecting the next generation of mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) and has raised $800 million in funding. This autonomous vehicle is starkly different than the rest because their service combines AI, robotics, and design that are all built from the ground up instead of being retrofitted into existing vehicles. These futuristic cars are rumored to have no steering wheel or dashboards and have the potential to steer the market in a new direction.

Positive Impacts of Driverless Cars

There are so many companies involved in developing driverless car technology because the future of driving has some far-reaching advantages. For one, roads are going to become safer. "If about 90% of cars on American roads were autonomous," explains Business Insider, the number of accidents would fall from 6 million a year to 1.3 million." CO2 emissions and traffic flow will also be improved. Plus, people will have more free time. Futurism reports that the "average American spends 101 minutes per day driving" – over the course of a lifetime, that's almost 38,000 hours that could be spent doing anything else.

With so many positives, most people are very receptive to the introduction of driverless cars, especially younger age groups. "Millennials ages 33 and under are the most receptive age group to robocars," explains The Drive. "Almost 40% would be willing to buy an autonomous car in less than five years and well over 60% of Generation Y would consider getting one in 10 years or less." Some of the enthusiasm for driverless technologies has waned since Uber's March 2018 catastrophe, but even after that disaster, over half of the people surveyed by the American Automobile Association (AAA) want some amount of self-driving technology in their next car.


Driverless Cars Effect on Retail and Travel Industries

Companies in different industries are excited about driverless technologies too. The Atlantic imagines a future in which retailers are willing to send driverless cars to shepherd shoppers to their stores or give customers a free ride for dropping by: "Say you and your friends want to go to the beach. For $20, a van could take you all directly there. Or, you can go for free, with stops at Amazon Food and at Target. At the beach, you're pleased with the deal: You wanted snacks anyhow, and though you did not need a new beach towel, Target had really nice ones, so you picked up two-along with a cute hat and a phone case you saw by the register."

Consumers might also be treated to slower drives near featured real estate, sponsored messages, and political narrations. It's a game changer. The world could become like one big mall with curbside service to drive shoppers to each destination.

The travel industry will also see some big differences. In addition, driverless technologies cost less than maintaining personal vehicles – and that makes travel more affordable. Stanford reports that transportation costs will fall to roughly one-third of their current heights, effectively democratizing transportation by making it more accessible to people with limited income as well as users who may have limited mobility.

Location will start to matter a little less because parking is not required. That means that hidden travel destinations and retail gems can get more traction, even if they are located far from a city center or in a location without nearby parking. Casinos are a good example. They have always done things to attract gamblers, even paying for private flights, like this casino in Wendover, Nevada. Soon, driverless cars could be incentives offered by all manner of companies in the travel industry.


Matching the Pace               

Travel and retail stores will need to match the pace of driverless enhancements to remain relevant. People may no longer own their cars, opting instead to share a driverless vehicle and that will change the way people shop, travel, and spend. Car dealerships, collision centers, and service shops will fade and gas stations will become less common, so those industries will need to evolve to reflect the needs of self-driving vehicles.

The travel industry will also need to change. As self-driving cars become normalized, tourists may begin to expect the perk or actively choose hotels that offer driverless car service to its guests. Location won't matter as much for retailers as it can now either. A shop or clothing store could have items delivered that day. There have been some early strides in this direction. Several grocery store chains already offer same-day delivery and REVOLVE clothing has offered same-day delivery during Coachella.

Overall, driverless cars may personalize the consumer experience, bringing customer service to the forefront. In turn, businesses will be encouraged to use the technology to offer a better customer experience overall. For instance, retail shops can use autonomous delivery to send out packages all day long. Driverless cars make it easy with GPS tracking and route optimization while virtual assistants could provide a bridge between self-driving deliveries and customer support. Companies in the travel industry could make driverless car service a complimentary perk for people staying in a specific hotel or visiting a particular restaurant. The customer service possibilities that stem from driverless cars are limitless.

The Rise of New Industries

Times are changing. In the end, new industries will emerge because of the rise of the self-driving vehicle. In addition to changes in the travel and retail industries, driverless technologies need people to work on the safety and efficiency of the vehicles. Other businesses may be developed to make self-driving rides more enjoyable and expanding entertainment options for the trip. Driverless cars are changing everything.

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Bailey Boyd

Business Development
September 20, 2018