Lately, it seems like people are spending a lot of time pondering what society will be like post-Coronavirus. While everyone is craving going back to the world we knew, we are also acknowledging that the world will never be the same. I appreciate that there have been many articles (like this one and this one) that present some of the societal shifts that could happen as a result of this pandemic and I figured I’d take it a step farther and see what it might mean in the driverless industry. Here are some of the big trends (relevant to driverless vehicles) that I’m seeing:
- Car sales are shifting to an online marketplace (link here);
- Shopping for groceries, clothes, and everything else is massively shifting online, which is reducing our individual car ownership, but putting heavy reliance on goods delivery (link here);
- Since workplaces are encouraging working remotely, shopping has largely shifted online, and most public places are closed, people are driving much less (link here);
- People are scared to ride public transit and take shared rides due to the close proximity to others (link here);
While many of these changes are out of necessity today, it’s very possible that they will instill long-term change. So what does this mean for driverless vehicles? It’s clear people are eager for the driverless delivery of goods, which is a great opportunity for building consumer acceptance for driverless vehicles, in general. And this massive reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is reminding people of a cleaner, safer world – could this create longer-term impacts? Better environmental policies? On the other hand, this does not bode well for shared, driverless rides – though I’m hopeful this is not a long-term impact.
I hope our society can be thoughtful about how we re-open our society…not just with regards to the sharing of germs, but with our policies, our businesses, and our individual practices. Let’s think about the world we want and become proactively try to make it happen. Shared, electric, driverless vehicles – how do we get there? Encourage shared rides, incentivize electric vehicle usage, create supportive driverless regulations, discourage single occupancy vehicle usage (and vehicle ownership, in general), and continue to demonstrate and communicate driverless vehicle success stories. While the technology continues to be advanced, these are all important foundational elements.