As a Director here at Pythian, and the host of the Datascape podcast, technology and business are two topics that are always on my mind.
Currently, in the business world, there’s a lot of talk about self-driving transport trucks and how they will disrupt the transportation industry and potentially remove a lot of middle class jobs. As I started thinking about these things, I thought, “well, why can’t there also be self-driving, fully loaded Recreational Vehicles (RV’s) too?” These self-driving RV’s would serve business people who travel for work.
A few Google searches later, followed by a conversation with my father, (who’s a former RVer), confirmed these types of changes are coming—and soon.
Think about the ripple effect of having self-driving RV’s for business travel will cause. How will this disrupt the airline industry? And maybe even what’s left of the train industry?
I am a frequent business traveler. On a regular basis, I fly to visit current and potential customers who are within a 6-20 hour drive from me. Let’s look at how long even a short hop flight actually takes, what’s involved, and also the quality of that experience.
When flying, you need to be at the airport a few hours early to account for time spent getting there, waiting in lines, customs, and security. You then wait some more, drink some terrible coffee, and maybe eat an overpriced meal. Finally, you get on your flight.
After a few hours, you impatiently deplane and then grab a cab to a hotel or to your meeting. Within this time, you probably need to eat again.
This is a long, frustrating, and expensive process. Personally, I don’t work well in airports or on planes, because I’m just not comfortable or able to concentrate with the hustle and bustle around me. There are also security concerns with working in a remote place, like on an airplane or in an airport, because I can’t connect to anything containing sensitive information. Because of these things, I often come in the night before to ensure that I start the next day fresh.
Now let’s consider what would happen if we could take an autonomous RV, one that was perhaps operated by maybe Uber or Lyft.
Book your RV online or through your smart phone. The RV shows up on time, stocked with food, water, is climate controlled and remembers that you like it at 72F. It also comes loaded with secure Internet services. There’s also a height adjustable desk, TV, sleeping quarters, and a full bathroom.
The RV picks you up, you start your work day and you productively, and comfortably work throughout the day. Traveling with a business partner? Maybe his or her self-driving RV meets up with you along the way and you co-work in that space.
You prep, possibly sleep, eat, and shower in your RV and then maybe 8-12 hours later, you arrive at your meeting fresh and ready. Your meeting takes place and then you head home.
Need to spend the night? Special tower parking garages will be built. Your RV will drive up, check itself in, and will be lifted to the appropriate floor/parking space and park itself. At which time you can go for a walk, swim, and do anything you’d normally do at a hotel.
On the way home, you celebrate by selecting a few points of interest along the way, arriving (again) refreshed and ready to join your family or friends. In fact, maybe on this trip, your partner joins you and helps you rehearse your points for the meeting with the client.
Certainly, there are costs involved in all of this, but when you compare lost productivity, the drain and stress from travel, missed/late flights, cost of flights, hotels, per diems, and the overall “airline experience,” it’s easy to see how this could become a very popular option vs. short-hop flights.
Taking it a step further, speed limits are where they are for various reasons and safety is one of them. As the technology develops, and if humans are removed from driving (or perhaps not allowed on Interstate/Trans Canada highways), it may be feasible to significantly raise the speed limit which will compound this further.
I do not think this is very far off. My prediction is 15 years, max.
We’ll certainly still need air travel but demand will be reduced, and if I managed an airline, I’d be taking a serious look at enhancing the passenger experience to minimize disruption.
What do you think? If this service was available to you, would you use it?