We’re living in an age of unprecedented speed and change. Entire industries are being swept away even before they recognize the changes affecting them. Look at the newspaper industry? You can actually watch it die little by little each day as people have chosen other ways to keep informed. The legal profession is being pressured in the same way by non-lawyer businesses. LegalZoom and AVVO are revolutionizing large swaths of the legal profession starting with uncomplicated estate planning, wills, incorporations, LLC’s and small business documents. Non-lawyer venture capitalists are pouring billions into these companies while law schools continue to pump out would be unemployed lawyers.
The same thing is occurring in the automobile industry. The big three U.S. automakers remained unaware of the coming tide of driverless vehicles until just recently. Have you noticed that Google, Uber and Lyft are the tip of the spear in driverless technology? Google created the vision and began work on autonomous vehicles almost 10 years ago. In 2011, they went to General Motors to discuss a partnership in this innovative technology. GM didn’t see the point. They were stuck in a 1970s business model of creating fancy cars to sell in showrooms. It was a sales experience. Google, however, was intent on creating transportation as a service. And they have done so.
Google had a vision of fleets of driverless vehicles providing the transportation needs of millions of people on demand. In 2016, they spun off their driverless car division into an independent company known as Waymo. One Wall Street analyst recently estimated Waymo may be worth $175 billion, 40% more than the capitalization of GM, Ford and Fiat-Chrysler combined! Uber has invested heavily in this technology as well. Have you noticed that Uber has also become more valuable than GM? The traditional automakers recognized they’ve been left behind.
The big three are now playing catch-up and investing heavily in their own self driving divisions. GM has created its subsidiary called Cruise Automation into which it is committing over $2 billion. Similarly, Ford is committing $4 billion to its own autonomous car startup. These companies were slow to the party and slow to innovate and execute. They simply can’t keep up with the pace of Google’s innovation.
Google has shifted its focus, combining driverless technology with on-demand ridesharing. Providing a driverless vehicle would supply enormous savings in the cost of transportation. It’s estimated the human driver accounted for 70 to 90% of Uber’s cost per mile. Google intends to eliminate this expense. It envisions fleets of autonomous vehicles providing 100% of the driving needs of millions of people. They will do it at a lower-cost, providing a unique transportation experience, and allowing the passenger to productively use their time other than by driving. Wondering if this will catch on? It is reported that Lyft is experimenting in major markets with unlimited rides for fixed-price of $200 per month. Imagine how inexpensive that service would be without the cost of the driver. Wow! That could be cool!
Source: Wall Street Journal, August 18-19, 2018.