Taking someone else's lunch.

31 May 2018

Burger emoji

Have you ever made a prediction about the future that came true? Did you see Google Glass being a flop from day one? Did you see the rise of VR years ago? Yea, I do this too.

A caveat before we begin: I have no special knowledge on any subjects covered. This is driven by instinct, experience and observation. I'm documenting this as a future 'I told you so' if and when these predictions happen. Enjoy.

Prediction: As the agile tech world moves into the automotive industry, at least one of the big car companies will collapse. Within 10—20 years, one company will see their share of the consumer car market disappear completely over a very short period of time. This may no spell the end of said company. Most have operations in other industries or sectors, industrial vehicles for example. But you will see a huge shift and looking back to now, todays cars seem very basic indeed.

“It’s OK—we’ll be fine.”

Here's one powerful example of a very similar scenario happening back in 2007: “It’s OK—we’ll be fine.”. This was the response to the iPhone launch by Jim Balsillie… CEO of Blackberry. Whoops.

Blackberry struggled in the wake of the iPhone—They didn't see it coming. When Apple was openly taking their lunch, they missed the significance and underestimated the speed it would happen. They are way ahead of Apple at the time, they thought their keyboard was superior. They missed the shift Apple created in redefining what a phone is. And a leaked email from 2011 shows the mess that unfolded.

The same thing will happen with at least one car company and the testing ground for this will be lorries. Once driverless technology is viable, a large logistics company will replace some/all of their drivers with driverless lorries. Very quickly it will be clear that this is a cheaper and safer way to transport goods. Driving a vehicle as a role for a human will end here. well, maybe the chauffeur will survive?

After that, a tech company: Likely Google, then maybe Apple, will use driverless technology to redefine the purpose of a consumer car, a category shift. This might be as a sharing service like Tesla is already doing. It might be turning the car into a moving venue (because all the seats will point inwards) or an office space. Who knows.

Once this happens, all the current car companies will be on the back foot and those who arent currently running a really tight ship will sink.

Current offerings from the big car companies are so complex is beggars belief: Once you add non standard options, model lines, optional features and upgrades, most of the big car companies have 1000s or 10,000s of options that are baffling to all but the most petrolly of petrol heads. This isn't choice, this is a massive barrier and a terrible user journey.

lunch gone

The tech companies wont do this: They will have a user journey that is far more linear than what is currently deemed acceptable. Its easy to imagine Apple offering 3 models of driverless car: small one, big one, sporty one. With a simple set of extras that are modular across model lines: single cup holder, double cup holder. There will be a clever way for someone to drive out of a store in a similar form as buying a Macbook.

This shift will feel right for both the early adopters and the early majority. They will see insurance and running costs drop, safety increase and in the process, regain control of time previously lost to manual driving. This will all happen very quickly. Way too fast for the car companies to keep up with product life cycles moving from decades to single years. Existing ecosystems (app store, search history) will strengthen on the already deep connections created with phones etc. The new car will already know you.

Like Blackberry, the other car companies wont necessarily notice this shift right away. The new users may not even be considered car buyers at this point. If your car drives itself, who needs age restrictions?

It will be fast, pervasive in a way that car companies don't appreciate and within 20 years, people who aren't born yet, will question why we were ever allowed to drive these things ourselves and even the concept of a driving license, and steering wheel will seem very basic indeed.

Prediction: As the agility of the tech world moves into the automotive industry, at least one of the big car companies will collapse within 10—20 years…