In a driverless world, why would this concept have to be confined to a first class airplane cabin? How about a driverless luxury Mercedes-Benz Sprinter with an onboard concierge, virtual or human?
The Wall Street Journal this week published an insightful commentary on what driverless vehicles will mean for the auto insurance industry. At a time when limousine operators are struggling with higher insurance rates and finding qualified chauffeurs, the prospect of self-driving vehicles could resolve a "two-fer" of an operational challenge.
The glistening nugget for the industry in this commentary, however, were these two sentences: "Fewer people will buy cars, as ordering a vehicle from an unmanned car service will be cheap and convenient. In some ways, this will bring the luxury of a chauffeur to middle-class families and convert drive time into bonus time."
That points to a future role for chauffeured transportation companies, which could operate in many ways similar to a app-based, computer software, GPS-driven transportation service. It reminds me of how the U.S. Air Force deploys sophisticated drones via computer and satellite from half a world away.
Consumer-passengers will either need to buy into driverless vehicle networks, i.e. chauffeurless, with varying levels of service and vehicle-cabin types or they will need to hire companies that manage and maintain driverless vehicles they own. That was the gist of a presentation from futurist and e-commerce entrepreneur Zack Kanter on May 19 during the LCT Leadership Summit in Miami Beach, Fla. I'll have more details in my Editor's Edge column, coming up in the July issue, but for now I'd like to broach the idea of what future "chauffeurs" will be like. Chauffeured network companies could offer these levels of service:
1) A customized, automated Siri-style voice interactive service;
2) A live “voice only” concierge connected to driverless cabins via speaker phone; or
3) An onboard chauffeur-concierge to handle luggage, answer questions, or serve as a guide.
Under this scenario, it is unlikely the chauffeur will be eliminated. Very likely, the chauffeured companies that survive will the ones that leverage technology, apps, autonomous vehicle trends, and connections to coachbuilders who design cutting-edge luxury cabins.
And think how a wealthier, healthier aspirational middle class will want to spend money on such modes of luxury transportation, all to buy that invaluable quality time.
Separating hype from human reality will challenge even the smartest driverless technology experts.
The more casual and coarse society gets, the more chauffeured service can gleam with a counter-couture-culture.
As the dates for autonomous milestones move up, motorists retain a healthy skepticism of self-driving vehicles.
Opposite sides rage against the ride app machine: When do you consider an app legit?
What happens when the big buses are chauffeured, while more sedans to the airport are driven?