Baby You Can Drive My Car

From the desk of Alice Morgan

My favorite tenet in new product development is, You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know.

As my friend Eliza points out, who knew 10 years ago that our phone would become our camera? Sea changes are aptly named; like the tide, they are inexorable.

We are in the midst of a sea change in the automotive sector. Technological developments by Google, OEMs and others, have resulted in, depending on your lexicon preference, Crash Avoidance Technology, AKA Driverless Cars.

The technology is here. The question is, is the consumer?

First, the technology. As all sorts of articles have pointed out (here’s just one) crash avoidance features are increasingly common, and many vehicles currently offer some form of technology-enabled driver assistance. Available features and packages include Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Prevention Assist, and Parking Assistance (a polite way to describe helping terrible parallel parkers avoid smashing into other cars.)

Although the technology is here, or in some cases almost here, the interesting thing is that the consumer is not. When asked what they think of cars that drive themselves people talk about how much they like driving, controlling the car, the open road, etc. It’s all very Jack Kerouac. What people conveniently forget is that the joys of driving are often few and far between. Driving, let’s face it, is a chore. Commuting, day after day. Driving the kids to school, schlepping them to various activities. Like many things, there’s the concept of driving, and then there’s the reality.

This contradiction presents a fascinating opportunity. To understand the mindset of the consumer. To probe and find out what are the barriers to understanding and accepting this Brave New World. To explore what industries will be impacted and how. Obvious industries include Insurance (more money from fewer crashes) and Auto Body Shops (less money from fewer crashes). Less obvious categories may include, for example, electronics manufacturers, as cars get reconfigured with nifty new gizmos to entertain an increasingly passive driver.

To all this, we say: Fasten Your Seatbelts. And enjoy the ride.