Be a disruption seagull; you don’t need to know where the fish are, you just have to follow the boat.

Some companies are making the disruption and some are benefiting from it. They aren’t mutually exclusive, so in a period where there is some big stuff happening, how do the little guys line up behind it?

Rather wonderfully, driverless electric cars are almost certain to be the way of travelling in what could be less than 20 years. This means my hoverboard should be ready shortly after. Have a look at this article from a former colleague Jack Basley.

Now, where Jack has really got me thinking is in positioning driverless cars in the context of public transport. The price point for Uber vs the cost of public transport is already not miles away from parity – per passenger trip in Sydney it costs around $15 for the government. Public transport relies on scale to be profitable so small, rural towns in particular could make real savings. They already are in some places (including this one in Canada Driverless just removes another constraint which makes it even more efficient.

However, this mostly benefits councils, Uber, the car companies etc. You perhaps need to go a level deeper to identify opportunities around the main disruption where ripples in the pool lead to all sorts of opportunities. The initial wave is easy is to see and to guess the value. The real opportunities are in the waves which follow and the changes they cause. You just have to look at the use cases and reimagine what might be possible. For example:

Travel is about point to point?? – most cafes and restaurants are based in urban areas or especially beside main roads where there is parking. If that is no longer a constraint then you can take detours to anywhere you like. You can normally assume people want to get places quickly but if you aren’t driving, you can be working, or having fun. So if the restaurant doesn’t have to be on the main street, it can anywhere you like.  So here is my business idea number 1; taking a leaf from Indian colleagues with their wonderful looking home cooked lunches; I would create a network of domestic lunch makers at which you could stop on your way to work to get. The disaggregation and democratisation of lunch. A sort of Uber eats run by your granny. The same Granny could also provide a cleaning service for the cars, she pushes one button and fleet of Googlemobiles arrive for a spruce-up.

However, even this idea is based around a fairly standard view of transport so I maybe need to think a little differently. The mindset is to see travel as the means to an end rather than the means itself, therefore everything is a factor of time or distance. If you change the mindset, you start to see the opportunity. Here are three such ideas.

Future of Parking – is generally considered to be an economic and environmental disaster in that the efficiency of parking spaces is typically very low, it paves over space which could be better used to generate utility (happiness or money) and it’s not good for run-off of nasty chemicals and even the reflection of heat. There is also a huge use of space alongside roads where cars are not moving for the vast majority of time and accordindly serve no purpose. Where then are the opportunities to reformat, repurpose and rethink parking when you don’t need the space? Urban gardens, markets, micro-distribution centres or hubs for commerce An investment now in parking might be brilliant move.

Future of Education – Sydney in particular is renowned for a huge migration of children every day going off to schools all over the city. With driverless cars, you would unleash all sorts of potential for mischief making. Why not then build the first lesson of the day into the commute. Facial recognition knows what children are where, whether they are looking and you can deliver a lecture, homework, verbal exams whilst they are on the move. A bespoke language learning course would do just the trick, AI bots to have conversations, immersion in the language, connection internationally with kids overseas. You could have the whole population of Australian children speaking Mandarin without ever having a teacher know a word.

Future of healthcare –  a typical Doctor’s surgery and pharmacies require a range of stock to support the different Doctors with different specialities. There is a company in Mexico; Cemex who revolutionised cement delivery by putting geotagging on their trucks and then sending them out into cities with no specific orders to fulfil; when the orders came in, the trucks would be directed to the need. Why not apply the same principle to Doctors, ignore a base location and send them around in a driverless car going where they are required. A much more efficient use of resources. A series of pharmacy vehicles does something similar roaming around the city waiting for the orders to come in.

The driverless car industry will be a $1trillion business over the next 50 years. Not everyone is going to be able to get much from the big disruption bit; the first half of the money is going to go the tech companies, the next chunk to the car companies, the next chunk to insurance companies and government etc. But even being left with a wee tiny bit at the end, it’s still a lot of money. The objective today is to start to imagine the future and take the first steps towards the potential opportunities. There is nothing above which can’t be done today in some format, the real money is just over the horizon.

There’s plenty of fish to go round if you go looking.

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