In 15 years, you won’t own your own car. You won’t need one.
Google, Uber, Apple, and others will own a fleet of self-driving cars that can be hailed on-demand or scheduled on a routine basis, like for your commutes. Think about it – your car sits unused about 95% of the time, depreciating in value, requiring maintenance, cleaning, and insurance.
Automated driving technology is making strides every year toward being commercially viable. It’s inevitable that these companies will work out the kinks and edge cases needed to pass the regulatory hurdles in front of them within the next generation. I’m almost certain that by the time my future kids are 16, they won’t have a need for a driver’s license.
It won’t happen all at once. First, people will become more comfortable with their cars auto-piloting only on highways, which is the easiest situation for automated driving systems to handle. Before long, people will get used to letting their cars drive through populated cities and heavy traffic. Eventually, people will realize it no longer makes sense to own a car. Instead, you’ll be able to request exactly the kind of car you need whenever you need it. Need to haul a load of mulch from Home Depot? Request a pickup truck for a few bucks. Going camping? Grab an SUV. Just need a commuter car? Take a small electric sedan or carpool with others to save money (gas-powered cars will be an antiquated idea in 15 years).
In addition to the convenience and money savings, automated car sharing will drastically reduce the number of car accidents. Drunk driving will be virtually eliminated. People won’t fall asleep at the wheel or rear end each other while texting. Once automated vehicles reach a critical mass, they’ll also be able to communicate with each other to optimize traffic flow, reducing everyone’s drive times. Meanwhile, you can take a nap or watch Netflix while you get to your destination.
Deliver All the Things
In 3-7 years, almost everything you buy will be delivered directly to your house. Gone will be the days of weekly grocery shopping. Instead, you’ll set up a weekly subscription of your staple food items which will cover your basics. Beyond that, you’ll be able to order your forgotten ingredients and have them delivered to your door by drone within a matter of 30 minutes. There’s a reason Amazon acquired Whole Foods last year – and it’s not just to try to keep selling you overpriced groceries inside their stores.
Drone technology has improved drastically within the last few years, making mass deliveries with them an absolutely realistic prospect within the next several years. Amazon will save money on labor, insurance, and vehicle costs from their drivers, and you’ll be able to get smaller deliveries much more quickly. This will also make returns much simpler. Imagine you’re interested in a new jacket, but you’re debating between two sizes. A drone can bring you both sizes, you can try them on, and quickly return the one you don’t want.
Drones will also make carry-out food orders a lower-cost option. You won’t have to go pick up your Chipotle order or pay a hefty delivery fee and tip to a driver. Instead, you’ll pay a dollar to have your burritos dropped off on your front step. Better yet, restaurants will probably provide the service for free with a minimum order.
Effectively, there will be very few things which you’ll need to leave your house to buy. While this will make life more convenient for everybody, we’ll pay a price for it through increased consolidation of retailers. We’ll continue to see the collapse of malls and the bankrupting of traditional retailers. Small businesses will struggle more and more to stay competitive on price and to attract foot traffic in their stores, losing sales to the giants who can afford the improved delivery technology.
Cutting the Cable
There’s simply no way my generation will keep paying for the $150 cable packages that our parents’ generation has been victim to. We’ve gotten a taste of the value a $10 Netflix subscription can provide, meaning the expensive bundle garbage isn’t going to fly anymore. Netflix is pouring billions of dollars into producing amazing original content and making deals with reputable creators. At the same time, they’re continuing to master the art of the recommendation engine using sophisticated machine learning algorithms. If cable providers are going to stay in business, they’re going to have to offer ad-hoc channels at lower costs or say goodbye to Millenials who are happy to pay their $10/month to binge the next season of Stranger Things.
What Do You Think?
Am I way off base and optimistic on my predictions? What areas of the economy do you think will be drastically overhauled within the next generation? I’d love to hear what you think.