Self-driving cars: the end of rail, public transport& cab?

Self-driving cars threaten german car companies, but especially rail, public transport and cabs.


This trend analysis describes which companies are extremely threatened and how industries can reinvent themselves.

You may have read: since the end of august, self-driving UBER cabs have been driving through the city of pittsburgh, u.s.a. There is still a human in the driver’s seat of the converted volvo XC90, but his job is only to intervene in an emergency. the cab driver has been demoted to an 8-hour supervisor this summer. It seems to be only a matter of months before cab drivers disappear from their cars altogether. UBER officially says it wants to replace 1 million UBER drivers. And that "as quickly as possible."

UBER’s biggest competitor is called lyft. They’re doing pretty much the same thing, only with a few billion less VC money behind them and with a more emotional appeal. Lyft drives the community idea with symbols and rituals: drivers and passengers are supposed to feel on the same wavelength. And even better: the business model of the community idea is pool rides with several passengers at the same time. Lyft CEO john zimmer’s roadmap even made it into the german "wirtschaftswoche" this week: he wants to start using self-driving cabs in 2017, and by 2021 the majority of all trips should be driverless. And by 2025, he predicts the extinction of private car ownership.

Now this is no sensation. We futurologists have been predicting this for a long time now. our 2009 book "2020 – so leben wir in der zukunft" (2020 – this is how we will live in the future) describes production-ready autopilots in cars for 2020, while the book "2025 – so arbeiten wir in der zukunft" (2025 – this is how we will work in the future) describes the mass market for completely driverless cars for 2025. And on the specific business models, our managing director for research& analysis of the 2b AHEAD thinktank, michael carl, in his trend analysis exactly predicts today’s development.

And yet we have to talk about it again. Because obviously many of the affected companies are not thinking far enough yet. On the one hand, there are the German automotive companies, all of which now have their chief digital officers who are driving digitalization forward. But all too often, their predictions get stuck halay there, too. And on the other hand there are the public transport and the german railroads, where most strategists still ignore the existential threat.

That’s why, in today’s trend analysis, I would like to familiarize you with the most important lines of development for self-driving cars. You’ll see that self-driving cars promise to be a great time for us customers, because they will make mobility not only personalized and convenient, but also virtually free of charge.

But at the same time, I would like to think about which industries are extremely threatened by the coming self-driving cars and how their companies can reinvent themselves. And what this all means for the development of our cities, streets and houses.

The four phases of driverless cars


Do cities know what the future holds for their mobility??

There are currently many examples of the likely scenario of mobility in cities in the year 2025. The International Transport Forum calculates that road traffic will decrease by 37 percent. BCG colleagues calculate that there will be 57% fewer private cars on the roads and that long-distance buses will disappear completely. Local bus lines will also become superfluous and "streetcars will be completely available" … and in this scenario, the colleagues have not even calculated the probability of free mobility yet.

One does not have to believe these calculations uncritically. Because it is still impossible to calculate the future. You just can’t count them or measure them.

But some things can be assumed to be very likely: the mass transportation on fixed routes (bus and streetcar) have no chance of survival against the advantages of self-driving cars.

In the future, the mass transportation of people in cities will probably be similar to what uberpool is already doing today. Large, self-driving passenger cars can carry between 2-12 passengers. In the past, we would have called it a "large-capacity cab". They are ordered by the passenger via cell phone to the respective location and bring the passengers individually exactly to their doorstep. Routes are recalculated and adjusted in real time at any time based on an intelligent, predictive operating system.

Scepticism is warranted, however, with regard to the forecasts of declining numbers of cars on the roads. Although only half as many cars will probably be sold. But this does not mean that the number of cars on the roads will also decrease.

It is much more likely that the number of cars in the parking lots will decrease. While there are fewer cars. But if they are not parked, but sent to the streets 24/7 for autonomous work, then it won’t be the streets that become empty, but only the parking garages.

And even if the autonomous cars don’t work as cabs themselves, it could still be cheaper to let them circle empty around the inner city ring road than to pay the horrendous parking fees or get parking tickets.

Do our city planners actually have any idea yet how they are going to deal with the swarms of empty circling self-driving cars looking for a free parking space?

And what do they do with the unused space when 95% of the expensive parking spaces (study by the international transport forum) remain empty?

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