There has been a lot of controversy lately surrounding several
new industries that rely on new technologies in order to operate.
How will these ‘innovations’ affect traditional transportation operations? How will we adapt – or can we?
Disruptive businesses are not new. Did you ever think movie rental magnate Blockbuster would go away? Well it did, due to the launch of video streaming services. Remember years ago when an unlikely startup challenged conventional shopping? Amazon, a company that started selling books online, changed one of the most traditional businesses models: shopping. Today, conventional bricks-and-mortar stores are struggling despite recent studies showing competitive pricing.
Now we see similar ‘innovative companies’ springing up in transportation. Companies such as the app-based Uber have exploded in popularity. Users like the convenience, and the ride providers like the income. Yet traditional transportation providers are fighting politically to keep market share.
Waze, a traffic reporting social media application is rapidly gaining popularity. Users really like it. Will companies such as Waze be disruptive to traditional intelligent transportation systems? How will interfacing with a cell phone in a vehicle fit with laws against distracted driving? I know that the Waze application specifically asks if you are driving, but could this become a legal issue? Can social media applications such as Waze reduce or eliminate the need for variable message signs and other intrusive and expensive traffic sensors?
Technological changes are not only driving new innovative businesses; they are also changing traditional ones. What changes will we need to make to adapt to the coming popularity of autonomous vehicles? How will these cars interface
to the connected city of the future?
Even traditional payment systems are in danger. It is not just the ‘younger generation’ that are not carrying cash. The ‘older generation’ are shedding their traditional wallets, too. Technologies such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet are gaining popularity. Would you have believed even a year ago that you’d now be able to make payments with your watch? A year ago I had stopped wearing a watch because I had a smartphone.
So what if all this innovation came together? Apple and Android phones are being integrated into vehicles, autonomous vehicles are now on the road, and BMW is building in an application that finds parking spaces. Your watch can now call for a ride or guide you on a walk. Now add applications such as Waze and Apple Pay to your car. Locate, start or even have your car pick you up with your watch. Pay your user fee, whether toll- or mileage-based, through your vehicle’s built-in payment system.
All this sounds like the Jetsons but so did robotic vacuum cleaners several years ago. Our challenge is not to fight innovation, but to find a way to embrace and integrate it, leveraging existing commercial applications. Our business models are going to change. We either give our customers the technologies and service they want or risk being another Blockbuster.