Friday, May 30, 2014

Who's gonna drive you home, tonight?

I am genuinely excited (and would love a journey in one) by the truly transformative opportunity for humankind of the fascinating technology that is the Google driverless car, their own manufactured version of which they revealed this week on their blog:

Using parents or blind members of the public to demonstrate the benefits of it were of course clear use cases to highlight, but also think of the idea of a night out where at the end of it you just call for your car on your smartphone app and it takes you home to your door - the natural progression of the disruptive technology that the likes of Hailo have brought to the world of taxi journeys.

And it's disruption where the real opportunity for this technology becomes clear.  I saw some talking head 'expert' somewhere (on either TV or the web) opining about a future where you put your credit card in (Boris Bike like) to pay for the trip and you're then taken to your destination.

An expert who really doesn't get disruptive technology or how Google works as a business model.  And it's not going to be ad funded.

Smartphone apps have changed the lives of my generation and the next, and a subscription model based on apps is where the driverless cars will make such a difference.

The likes of Amazon Prime is a sign for how this will work.  Or at least how it should.

I can see a future - when this technology is cleared to operate on public roads without drivers being needed for safety backup (which hopefully will be within the next 5-10 years) - where I pay a monthly subscription (or indeed annual) for the driverless car service and make use of a smartphone app where I call on the nearest Google Car to come and collect me to take me to my destination.

Given the nightmare that parking is in cities like London I won't own the car.

And I won't need to.  Which is a good thing really, given that I have never driven a car in my life.

I'll be dropped off at the restaurant on a night out and the vehicle will then move on to the next customer - or indeed park at the nearest charging point to be ready to go again.

Then when I am ready to go home, I will again load the app and just press 'Take me Home' in the same way that my National Rail Enquiries app works today:

The next available vehicle will show up and I'll probably sleep my way home (given my age!) - and no doubt I could even ask the car to stop at a shop on the way (which of course could be a sponsored location) to pick up some bacon and bread for the next morning.

Google could even bundle this in as part of a suite of services that I pay my subscription for - e.g. Google Play content and even Nest services - and the convenience would certainly make it value for money for many and be a practical implementation of the Internet of Things.

A partnership with mobile providers that also includes an Android handset would also disrupt that market in a way that time limited acquisition offers bundled with Spotify and/or Netflix subscriptions is a mere dipping a toe in the water in comparison.

I am also minded of the parallels to what some Luddites have been saying about the London app taxi wars, particularly those who want regulation against the likes of Hailo - which, let us remember, is just technology giving us consumers what we want.

How do you get over the value that the traditional taxi driver adds, they say?

In fact this point was even raised in a conversation I had with the Guardian's Charles Arthur about this on Twitter this week:

[I'd like to add that Arthur is in no way a Luddite - he was just playing back the view from a cabbie]

Leaving aside the fact that my taxi driver experience one evening this week added no such value (the driver accused me of calling him a liar for insisting that I didn't live where his satnav said I did when he tried to drop me off), what this conundrum really needs is good search results.

Perhaps Google knows someone with ability in that area.

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