There is a part of me, admittedly a small part, that will miss driving when the robots take over. The open country road, a solid set of wheels, a girl by my side…those are the times when I want to feel the wind in my hair and the road through the wheel. “Got the top pushed back,” said Don Henley of the Eagles. “Wayfarers on, baby.”
But most of the time I am stuck in traffic, miserably just trying to get from A to B. Then there is no romance in driving, none at all, and I’d really rather just get in back and take a nap. “Bring on the autonomous cars,” I say. “Let the robot do the dirty work of driving.” And when that day comes (and the sooner the better as far as I’m concerned) almost everything I ever valued about cars will simply…evaporate.
Drivability? Performance? Power? Control? The ultimate driving machine?
Who cares? Certainly not me. I’ll be in back relaxing. Not even the robot cares. The only things that will matter to me then will be safety, reliability, and comfort.
Ah…comfort. What brands come to top of mind when we think of relaxing for an hour or two, maybe with friends or family, watching a show or reading, taking a nap, doing all the things we will do in our cars when we are not driving? Lazy-Boy? Sealy? The Room Store?
Yes, all those and more will be the beneficiaries of the day when our “cars” are more like tractor-trailers. The tractor will be an autonomous vehicle and built by coalitions between traditional car companies (Ford, Toyota, GM, etc) and the makers of self-driving technology, say Google.
But the trailer? The part where we humans will hang out for up to 7000 hours* of our lives? That part of our new driving machine (I call them “e-trailers”) will be built, not by mainstream car manufacturers, by the established kings of comfort and interior design.
I rather think hotels will be especially good at designing and managing e-trailers. I mean, isn’t it what they already do, albeit without the wheels? We use a relatively small space of theirs for a relatively small period of time, and then return it to them for cleaning and prep for the the next use, perhaps by someone else. I can envision companies like Hyatt, Marriott, Clarion and yes, Motel-6 offering branded e-trailers for all price categories. E-trailers will be “tractor agnostic,” that is, they will connect with any tractor, just like trucks do today. Mix and match.
Finally, I submit we will “own” several different types of e-trailers, if we even own them at all. More likely we will own just one or two, those we use most often. But for those we only use occasionally, like the pickup version we use to make a short run to the hardware store, those we will rent or share with neighbors. Other e-trailer types might include a sleeper for that long, annual trip to Disneyworld with the kids (giant flat screen TV mandatory) or the office version with desk for our daily commute.
So when it comes time for you to buy your next “car,” you might just be making a trip to Ikea. Let’s just hope they don’t make us assemble it ourselves with an allen wrench.
*Average one way commute of 25 minutes, twice a day, five days a week, for 30 years, plus a few long road trips. Do the math.
Brant Huddleston is the author of “How to Build a Robust Tourism Economy Using Mobile Technology: A Non-Technical Guide for Executives, Tour Operators, and EconDev Professionals” and an agile-centric, PMI certified product manager. You can find him at www.danbra.com