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Autonomous Vehicles: As Disruptive as the Internet?

To envision the potential impact of autonomous vehicles, think back to 1997 and the advent of the internet. At the time, it was unimaginable that well-established businesses such as video store chains and travel agencies would be almost completely wiped out within 20 years, and that everyday items such as CDs, printed photos, and landlines would be relics.

Nextcar Bug artAnd if someone told you in 1997 that in 20 years, celebrities would use the internet to post pictures of their pregnant bellies, that you'd be able to watch hours and hours of cat videos, or that the president would be making controversial comments in 140 characters or less, you'd likely be skeptical.

Going forward, self-driving cars will cause similar disruptions as well as opportunities we can't even imagine.

That's the conclusion of a recent report by RethinkX, "an independent think tank that analyzes and forecasts the speed and scale of technology-driven disruption." It predicts that a power trio of autonomous, electric, and shared-use technology will have a huge impact on individual vehicle ownership and car companies and a "catastrophic" effect on related industries such as auto insurance, trucking, and oil refining, causing massive revenue and job losses.

Uber Self-Driving Cars on Truck

The report forecasts that within 10 years of the regulatory approval of fully driverless vehicles, 95 percent of passenger miles traveled in the US will be via "on-demand Autonomous Electric Vehicles (A-EVs) owned by companies providing Transport as a Service (TaaS)." It also contends that on-demand A-EVs will be so ubiquitous and inexpensive that 70 percent fewer passenger cars and trucks will be produced each year.

The result will be "total disruption of the car value chain, with car dealers, maintenance, and insurance companies suffering almost complete destruction," the report says. Car companies, it adds, will survive "either as low-margin, high-volume assemblers of A-EVs or by transitioning to become TaaS providers."

"People simply won't own cars," one of the study's authors, Tony Seba, told USA Today. "The Ubers and GMs of the world will own the cars, and they'll be in use constantly, which will drive down the cost of each rides to a point where it will be economically irresistible to consumers."

Opportunities We Can Yet Imagine

While RethinkX believes car companies and related businesses will be decimated by self-driving technology, it also contends that consumers will benefit. As with the internet, this shift will create immense business opportunities.

As early 2021, TaaS options will be up to 10 times less expensive per mile than buying a new car and the average US household will save at least $5,600 a year by giving up gas-powered vehicles and traveling by A-EV.

London Self-Driving Shuttle

With consumers saving cash normally spent on car payments, gas, insurance, parking, and other vehicle-ownership costs, the rise of TaaS will boost disposable income by $1 trillion by 2030. Since commuters will have more time available by not driving, the study also predicts that productivity gains will boost GDP by an additional $1 trillion.

James Arbib, the study's other co-author, noted that self-driving cars will also enable "a wide array of business opportunities, such as cafes on wheels, mobile entertainment, or workspaces. The ability to monetize TaaS platforms as companies have monetized the internet platform opens the road to free transportation in some areas."

Related

The report cites free rides subsidized by "advertising, data, entertainment and product sales," which sounds like popular services offered by Google, Facebook, Pandora, and other internet giants.

So it's not a stretch to imagine Google's self-driving cars giving free rides in exchange for data on passengers' travel and shopping patterns. Or a Starbucks-sponsored AV steering you towards one of the brand's store for a latte while running errands.

Arbib and Seba have a great track record of predicting tech disruptions, although we really have no idea where self-driving technology will lead us. But, as with the internet 20 years ago, we do know it will change everything, and in ways we can't even imagine.

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The 7 most important announcements from Microsoft Ignite today

Microsoft is hosting its Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida this week. And although Ignite isn’t the household name that Microsoft’s Build conference has become over the course of the last few years, it’s a massive event with over 30,000 attendees and plenty of news. Indeed, there was so much news this year that Microsoft provided the press with a 27-page booklet with all of it. We wrote about quite a few of these today, but here are the most important announcements, including one that wasn’t in Microsoft’s booklet but was featured prominently on stage. 1. Microsoft, SAP and Adobe take on Salesforce with their new Open Data Initiative for customer data What was announced: Microsoft is teaming up with Adobe and SAP to create a single model for representing customer data that businesses will be able to move between systems. Why it matters: Moving customer data between different enterprise systems is hard, especially because there isn’t a standardized way to represent this information. Microsoft, Adobe and SAP say they want to make it easier for this data to flow between systems. But it’s also a shot across the bow of Salesforce, the leader in the CRM space. It also represents a chance for these three companies to enable new tools that can extract value from this data — and Microsoft obviously hopes that these businesses will choose its Azure platform for analyzing the data. 2. Microsoft wants to do away with more passwords What was announced: Businesses that use Microsoft Azure Active Directory (AD) will now be able to use the Microsoft Authenticator app on iOS and Android in place of a password to log into their business applications. Why it matters: Passwords are annoying and they aren’t very secure. Many enterprises are starting to push their employees to use a second factor to authenticate. With this, Microsoft now replaces the password/second factor combination with a single tap on your phone — ideally without compromising security. 3. Microsoft’s new Windows Virtual Desktop lets you run Windows 10 in the cloud What was announced: Microsoft now lets businesses rent a virtual Windows 10 desktop in Azure. Why it matters: Until now, virtual Windows 10 desktops were the domain of third-party service providers. Now, Microsoft itself will offer these desktops. The company argues that this is the first time you can get a multiuser virtualized Windows 10 desktop in the cloud. As employees become more mobile and don’t necessarily always work from the same desktop or laptop, this virtualized solution will allow organizations to offer them a full Windows 10 desktop in the cloud, with all the Office apps they know, without the cost of having to provision and manage a physical machine. 4. Microsoft Office gets smarter What was announced: Microsoft is adding a number of new AI tools to its Office productivity suite. Those include Ideas, which aims to take some of the hassle out of using these tools. Ideas may suggest a layout for your PowerPoint presentation or help you find interesting data in your spreadsheets, for example. Excel is also getting a couple of new tools for pulling in rich data from third-party sources. Microsoft is also building a new unified search tool for finding data across an organization’s network. Why it matters: Microsoft Office remains the most widely used suite of productivity applications. That makes it the ideal surface for highlighting Microsoft’s AI chops, and anything that can improve employee productivity will surely drive a lot of value to businesses. If that means sitting through fewer badly designed PowerPoint slides, then this whole AI thing will have been worth it. 5. Microsoft’s massive Surface Hub 2 whiteboards will launch in Q2 2019 What was announced: The next version of the Surface Hub, Microsoft’s massive whiteboard displays, will launch in Q2 2019. The Surface Hub 2 is both lighter and thinner than the original version. Then, in 2020, an updated version, the Surface Hub 2X, will launch that will offer features like tiling and rotation. Why it matters: We’re talking about a 50-inch touchscreen display here. You probably won’t buy one, but you’ll want one. It’s a disappointment to hear that the Surface Hub 2 won’t launch into next year and that some of the advanced features most users are waiting for won’t arrive until the refresh in 2020. 6. Microsoft Teams gets bokeh and meeting recordings with transcripts What was announced: Microsoft Teams, its Slack competitor, can now blur the background when you are in a video meeting and it’ll automatically create transcripts of your meetings. Why it matters: Teams has emerged as a competent Slack competitor that’s quite popular with companies that are already betting on Microsoft’s productivity tools. Microsoft is now bringing many of its machine learning smarts to Teams to offer features that most of its competitors can’t match. 7. Microsoft launches Azure Digital Twins What was announced: Azure Digital Twins allows enterprises to model their real-world IoT deployments in the cloud. Why it matters: IoT presents a massive new market for cloud services like Azure. Many businesses were already building their own version of Digital Twins on top of Azure, but those homegrown solutions didn’t always scale. Now, Microsoft is offering this capability out of the box, and for many businesses, this may just be the killer feature that will make them decide on standardizing their IoT workloads on Azure. And as they use Azure Digital Twins, they’ll also want to use the rest of Azure’s many IoT tools.

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