Driverless Will Affect Everything

A while ago, Benedict Evans had a really great blogpost about driverless cars and their effects on different things that you might not think about.  He is a VC for a16z and a great follow on Twitter.  For example, a lot of snack purchases are impulse purchases at a gas station.  What happens to Frito Lay when there aren’t any gas stations?  On our way home from Grand Marais yesterday, we listened to Russ Roberts interview Benedict Evans about his blogpost.  It’s really great.  The discussion went a lot deeper than the blogpost.

There are a lot of things that they didn’t cover-but I am sure each of them has thought about it.  My mind is attuned to both the urban existence and interaction with cars, and the rural existence and interaction with cars.  For example, I think it would be pretty simple to live with an electric car that only went 100 miles on a charge in an urban area given the way I use my car today.  However, given a very long battery life, when I wasn’t using that car I would certainly put it to work-or I might not own a car at all.  But, yesterday I drove much further than any electric car could go.  I drove a diesel.  Often in a rural area, electric cars as currently configured are totally impractical.

However, the last mile of delivery might be made extremely efficient for rural areas with driverless vehicles.  When we were in Grand Marais rehabbing the cabin we bought, we ordered a lot of stuff from Amazon because they would deliver.  A UPS driver would bring it out.  What happens when we think about groceries in rural areas and driverless vehicles?  Instead of going to a mart, you will order from your computer and a centralized warehouse will bring it to you.  A robot could unload it.

One of my challenges in rural areas is getting the same access to fresh produce and quality meat that I can get in suburban or rural areas.  Wine and spirits too.  Our current regulatory structure helps eliminate competition and so rural people have a lot less choice.  The wine/beer shop in Grand Marais kind of sucks and it’s pretty hard to open a new one with the federal and state laws that are in place.  Figuring out a digital solution is something I am going to work on for next summer.

I’d like to see them get rid of all subsidies for electric cars, gas cars, and diesel cars.  Let the market decide.  I am a huge fan of driverless vehicles.  Ben Evans talks about Stage 5 and I can’t wait to get there.  My drive yesterday would have been a lot better and less fatiguing.  I might have done it at night and slept the entire way.

What do you think the biggest change in our lives will be with driverless vehicles?  How soon do you think it will happen?  I will say, big technological changes generally take 30 years.  When I saw the CEO of GM speak, she thought it would be significantly longer than people in Silicon Valley were thinking.

My cousin married the GM of a Porsche dealer.  The last time I saw I listened to how he was thinking about driverless cars and the future of a car dealer.  He and Benedict Evans aren’t far apart.

I will say, part of the valuation of companies like Uber/Lyft are because it’s pretty hard to estimate the future value of driverless vehicles and how they will move people and goods around.  They might look cheap right now in 40 years.



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  • awaldstein

    Need to say that your experience out of the city building in the woods has put a new further afield edge to your thinking that is obvious and I think really good.

    • Pointsandfigures

      It gives you more perspective that’s for sure. It would behoove me to live in a couple of other places in the country for a month or so. I lived in Austin TX two years ago for 6 weeks and checked out San Antonio, Dallas etc. I have spent more than my share of time in rural areas. Really changes how you view tech. For example, if there is no cell service, how do you use a phone?

      • awaldstein

        I’m starting to move around a bit more.

        A week or two a month on the west coast. LA and SF this month part work and part working there and rebuilding networks.

        Next will prob be Seattle and Vancouver.


        (and yes, Lianna is wanting a place out f the city with dirt to plant in and big kitchen so rethinking life which is positive and enjoying it.

  • Dan Kunze

    I am 48 so probably too young to experience the benefits of driverless but I wish SO BADLY we had it now. Pardon my French, but I fucking hate driving.

    I waste 75 minutes a day in the car. That is time I could knock down email, read, or just have a cocktail. With computers controlling the vehicles, traffic will move so much faster I imagine my commute would be knocked down to 45 minutes a day.

    My wife and I could have more than a glass or two of wine at a nice, long night out and not worry about a DUI – or someone crashing into us who is drunk.

    At my businesses, driverless vehicles could make deliveries during third shift and robots could put all the stuff away, helping me eliminate costly employees and workers comp insurance.

    When I get older, I could see my grandkids (if I ever have any) much more frequently. Just get in the car and sleep or whatever.

    So many benefits and that is just scratching the surface.

    Insurance companies, attorneys and cops are going to fight this thing all the way to the end. But they will lose. Aging boomers and soon Gen Xers like me will pay anything to see little Sally’s piano recital if they can’t drive. Literally anything. There will be money made on an interglactic scale. As always, the question is – who will it be?

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  • steve_adams21

    One I mpact of self driving cars: Short legs of flights will drop, long legs for middle class will shrink as well. The cost and comfort of a rental ‘lounge’ to drive from MSP to ORD will be massively better then a flight. The overnight drive will have nice beds, big tv’s, free wifi and much more. Even the trips with the kids to Florida from the Midwest will be better. The physics of flight is expensive.