Driverless cars threaten to transform the automotive industry and the nature of transport itself. But could these motoring marvels effectively kill off large segments of the airline business?
Time Or Convenience?
Flying is so popular because of its speed. It’s effectively opened up the world and made it possible to reach far-away continents in mere hours. Within 14 hours, it’s possible to travel from London to Tokyo. It’s difficult to imagine another method of transport that could ever compete with numbers like that. But what about those in between journeys, that middle-ground that covers the space across a single continent for instance? When people are asked about how they find flying, they usually respond positively to its speed and convenience. However, the process surrounding the flight itself is viewed with disdain. This is the journey to the airport, parking, dealing with customs and the stress of losing luggage. It’s precisely here that driverless cars could put their foot in the door.
More Hours, Less Stress
According to research, most motorists would opt to drive instead of flying for five-hour journeys. This figure remains roughly the same whether the car is ‘driverless’ or not. However, if the alternative to flying was a 45-hour drive, only one in ten would opt for the open road. But this rises to one in six when the option of a driverless car is offered. What this demonstrates is that we’re not quite the busybodies we often imagine ourselves to be; we seem to value convenience over raw efficiency.
Driverless cars will allow us to plan our journeys around our own needs and preferences. After loading up our boots in the ways we please, we’ll be able to set off when we want without customs or queuing. In addition, whilst on the move, we’ll be able to work or enjoy recreation at our own pace and leisure; rather than being locked up in a tightly-packed metal tube with wings. No doubt the food we take with us will be better than what’s on offer at airlines, too!
Good News For Tesla, Uber…Bad News For Airlines
That there’s already an appetite (if only in abstract) for driverless cars will no doubt be welcomed by Tesla and Uber; both of which are placing their hopes in the technology. But as one fortune improves another flounders. Airlines already work with incredibly small profit margins, making exceptionally small amounts on individual flights; for them, profit stems from volume. Even a 10% decline could be catastrophic and would force many operators to scale back the services they offer and the frequency of flights. Even though some flights obviously couldn’t be eliminated by driverless cars (say Paris to Moscow) they could eliminate transfers in between; eating away at profitability even further.
Precisely when we can expect to see driverless cars on the roads in any significant number remains to be seen. Either way, they won’t simply make driving easier; they’ll have broader implications for transport and society.
Cars With Artificial Intelligence Will Automatically Report Accidents: http://autoserve.co.uk/motoring-news/artificial-intelligence-automatically-report-accidents/
The Many Reasons Why Driverless Cars Don’t Exist Yet: https://www.autoserveclub.co.uk/blog/the-many-reasons-why-driverless-cars-dont-exist-yet/