Uber has become the trademark for sharing economy. It’s the proverbial social win-win formula: You want to get somewhere, a driver is heading there, so he picks you up, and earns a friendly fee on the way.
But in fact Uber’s vision isn’t really about sharing economy. In fact, the “human factor” of the drivers is pretty messy for Uber: it involves costs, labor laws, contractual engagements, assault incidents, lawsuits… Uber would rather eliminate the “human factor” altogether. It has a whole other plan for us. And the plan goes through:
Which plan? Sit back and take a quick tour into our daily lives in the (not-so-distant) future:
You don’t own a car, you consume a service. car-as-a-service. Need a ride? Just tap your smart phone/watch/skin, and a ride will come and pick you up from your GPS-detected location, and you’ll be charged just for that ride. Just like electricity or water. no need for a large capital expense for purchasing a car, and extra cost for insurance, regular checkups and fixes for a car that sits idle most of the day. you’re not in the business of car fleets, you just need a ride.
This will also disrupt the automotive industry: the car design will no longer revolve around the driving experience. there simply is no driver now, remember? the car is now a ride service robot, and the focus is shifted to the passenger’s quality of experience. Now that the rider has his hands (and attention) free, focus will shift to making the ride more informative, more entertaining, more productive, with multimedia, games, work tools, with automated analytics learning the needs of the passenger, perhaps even offering some interesting goods… reminds you a bit of Google? Why isn’t that surprising…
This is not Sci Fi. This is a concrete plan taking shape as we speak. Last Thursday Uber announced acquiring Otto, an Israeli startup less than a year old headed by ex-Googlers, which provides technology that turns regular trucks into driverless (autonomous) ones. In parallel Uber announced moving into commercial stage with its autonomous cars initiative, launching a pilot in the city of Pittsburgh.
Uber isn’t the only one setting eyes on this mark. Traditional car manufacturers such as GM, Ford and Fiat (jointly with Google) have also identified the upcoming disruption and are also racing to the commercial autonomous car. In fact, just a day before Uber’s acquisition Ford announced acquiring another Israeli startup, SAIPS, as well as investing $75 Million in startup Velodyne, both aimed to boost its autonomous car project.
We’re heading to a brave new world. So sit back and enjoy the ride.
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