I had it all planned out. My retirement plan set in stone. A service that many need and have a hard time replacing. Only a sophomore and my business courses had already taught me this would be a no-miss opportunity for years to come. As a college student in the city of Atlanta, any movement around the city required that I factor parking in to the equation. Naturally, I saw the nuisance as an opportunity and decided to invest in parking lots, so I could earn back the many dollars I spent (and then some). A venture with minimal upkeep and less startup cash required than any of the other businesses I considered at the time? Sign me up!
Well, things change. While I still spend more than I’d like on parking fees, I understand the window of opportunity may be shut before I’d ever get any worthy return on my investment for buying a parking lot. Ride hailing services shifted the dollars from parking to mobility and autonomous vehicles further threaten the need for local parking when vehicles can be summoned to pick us up or drop us off whenever we need them. The specter of autonomous vehicle fleets reducing the need for personal car ownership also put an end to my plan to open a luxury drive in movie theatre (another plan hatched in b-school). So much for job creation in the future of work! These two disruptions made me begin to question what other businesses face risk from the rise of automation. More importantly, how might industry or organizational leaders pivot to position themselves for continued growth instead?
Architects and developers have already begun planning for the obsolescence of parking structures at major commercial and residential developments. Decks have been pre-fitted to easily convert into gyms or theatres when the sun sets on their current uses. Curbside stations for ride-hailing pickups and ecommerce drop offs are essential components of the future-proof parking decks as well. But even autonomous vehicles will still need places to park and recharge or be serviced between uses or in off-peak hours. Airports already house many thousands of vehicles in their own parking lots and rental car lots surrounding them. These locations are usually a bit removed from city centers and thus the perfect distance for regional car care hubs for autonomous fleets. They have close proximity to a consistent user base but are usually removed from city centers where pollution and congestion are of primary concern. Forward thinking leaders in the airline industry would be wise to consider the impact of ride hailing on their businesses in prepping for the future.
It is an experience steeped in nostalgia. Pull up to the drive-in with your snacks or choice, a full dinner if you want. Watch from the comfort of your car or pull out the fancy foldable chairs for a night of entertainment under the stars. But that nostalgic experience needs a dose of futurism to avoid the fate of movie rental houses and nickelodeons. The uncertainty of the personal car in the age of autonomous vehicles throws the entire operation into question. However, changing preferences for mobility don’t have to spell the end for the drive-in theatre. Theatre owners can partner with forward looking entertainment companies to bring the experience right to their customers’ doorsteps. Pairing virtual reality technology with autonomous vehicles and the storytelling that makes movies so captivating in the first place gives rise to an entirely new mode of delivering content that builds upon the drive in model. Instead of driving up to experience films, customers can drive right through the story and experience it interactively. Viewers might venture along a pre-designed route on the property of the company or experience a more dynamic ride on real roads as they drive around their cities. Fictional and non-fictional locales could be explored and experienced. This will call for an all new mode of storytelling that is nonlinear and ever evolving. And of course, media professionals that can combine all those talents to create compelling narratives.
Parking and drive-in movie theatres are among the many business models set to undergo immense change as the nature of mobility completely transforms. Entire cities, regions, and industries will be left behind by the self-driving revolution without proper planning and strategic action. The examples above illustrate that dystopian futures are not the only possible outcome. Here are five rules of the autonomous road for leaders across all industries:
- Be on time, but know when to go: It’ll take some time before legislators and public acceptance lay the groundwork for widespread deployment of self-driving vehicle technology, but once we reach the inflection point changes will be vast and fast. The time is now to assess how such technologies will impact your industry and how to prep to make the most of it.
- Play nice with the robots: Creating a role in your organization for planning, organizing and encouraging human-machine teaming can help you develop a strategy for harmony between workers and AI.
- Keep your eyes on the road: Safety is the most important element when it comes to the proliferation of self-driving vehicles. Prioritize safeguards against hacking attempts, and limit operations to scenarios within the capabilities of the autonomous vehicle technology you employ.
Car-centric businesses are directly in the crosshairs of the autonomous vehicle revolution, but mobility matters for all organizations. These lessons apply for retailers relying on vehicles to ship their goods, airlines competing with overnight autonomous car routes, municipalities that rely on traffic infractions to line the city coffers, and any other organizations you can imagine. For more on the changing landscape of transporting goods in the self-driving vehicle era to come, read my white paper, No Hands: The Autonomous Future of Trucking.