[Infographic] Anticipating the Ripple Effects of Change (Part 2): Driverless Cars

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Last week I posted a fascinating video which illustrated the need to anticipate the ripple effects of change (see Cats in Borneo). The sidebar below provides you with a quick summary of the video. It reminds us how our decisions impact, and are impacted by, the complex systems that we live within.

Systems Thinking Summary

Today we are continuing that theme by illustrating some of the anticipated ripple effects of future change from driverless cars. As a futurist, I am wired to look to the future in order to help businesses anticipate changes which will impact their organizations. The impending changes that driverless cars will bring reveal significant changes in the next decade.

Graham Winfrey provides an insightful list of five industries which will change as a result of driverless cars:

  1. Fast Food. Believe it or not, 70 percent of sales at McDonald’s come from drive-thru customers (Bloomberg). When people enter their destination into a driverless car and press “go,” they’ll be less likely to change course mid-route to grab fast food. Why? When it’s just as convenient to go anywhere for food as it is to go to McDonald’s or Burger King, people will likely choose fast food less (CB Insights). On top of this change, fast food locations near gas stations are also likely to attract fewer customers, as driverless cars will probably refuel when they’re not transporting passengers.
  2. Entertainment. Freeing up people from operating motor vehicles will present consumers with new blocks of time to read the news or enjoy entertainment. This will create opportunities for broadcasters to send video content to screens inside driverless cars and for advertisers to serve location-specific ads about products and services passengers will be near on their trip.
  3. Hotels that derive a significant amount of business from single-night customers during road trips are set to lose a lot of business. Why? It’s likely that many travelers will simply decide to sleep in their cars rather pay for an overnight stay. To be sure, it may take 20 years or more for this to become commonplace, but the roadside motel seems like a less viable business proposition as driverless cars take over.
  4. Property Values. When commuting substantial distances to work in a car becomes less of an inconvenience, property values will likely shift. Instead of the highest values concentrated in urban areas, home values will likely spread out more evenly across cities and into suburban areas. Parking garages and other spaces built around human drivers may also be converted to serve other purposes, as autonomous driving technology gradually reshapes city planning.
  5. Short-haul flights: Though most people prefer flying to driving due to the quicker travel time, shorter flights will likely see a drop in customers. The convenience and lower cost of sitting in a driverless car will begin to appeal more to people who don’t want to go through the hassle of waiting in line at the airport, going through security, and paying for ground transportation once they’ve arrived at their destination (Winfrey).

The following infographic addresses the same topic but provides some fresh insights (Owyang).














While there are many news stories which focus on driverless cars we are still in the early changes of thinking about the ripple effects of the changes they will cause in other industries. Successful companies and leaders will learn to anticipate changes such as the ones noted above. The ability to move more quickly than your competition is a key ingredient to strategic agility and  future-readiness.

In the past month our oldest child received his drivers license. I cannot help but wonder if this traditional adulthood right-of-passage is on the verge of becoming obsolete. Perhaps the DMV is yet another ripple in the pond of changes that driverless cars will bring.

Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com


Jeremiah Owyang (Feb. 10, 2016). Chart: Autonomous Cars Change Every Industry, Even Yours.

Graham Winfrey (Feb. 2, 2016). 5 Surprising Industries That Will Be Transformed By Driverless Cars. Inc. on-line.

Image Credit: PBS

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