The arrival of autonomous vehicles will disrupt the world in more ways than we realise — but it’s the after-shocks that ambitious companies should be thinking about and urgently. Over the next decade, we’ll increasingly start to view car ownership as quaint and inefficient, especially for city dwellers.

But it would be a mistake to think the autonomous vehicles’ revolution is only about changing how we get from A to B, writes Stefano Maifreni, founder & director of Eggcelerate, which advises on business expansion.

Autonomous vehicles will shake up the business world, far beyond the obvious implications for car sales, taxi services and haulage contracts. And if you’re running a technology company, then now’s the time to start thinking, designing and planning, because the doors will be opening to new business opportunities.

Autonomous vehicles won’t merely change the auto industry. Related sectors and adjacent markets will be impacted too, while niche new services will purr into action.

Here are seven big changes we’re likely to see – that could create the space for a host of bespoke products and services, created by forward-thinking companies:

1.Entertainment
With the tech doing the driving, the hours people spend travelling will become quality time. Cars will become an extension of the living room or meeting room. So imagine the products and services that consumers and executives may want, whether relaxing or working? Think screens, food, comfort, apps and smart ways to make the best use of compact spaces.

2. Cityscapes

If driverless vehicles become standard, then it makes sense that engineers will start to design roads and cities in an entirely different way. This could affect street signs, bus stops, Wi-Fi technology, buildings and planning regulations. For example, autonomous vehicles may be fine with narrower roads, parking spaces and garages. That could mean more room for housing, shops, pavement cafes, piazzas and green spaces.

3. Insurance
Autonomous vehicles could mean fewer accidents, so insurance costs could drop. However, perhaps the liability for accidents will shift onto AV manufacturers, fleet owners or the designers of the operating systems? Was the right software installed and updated? Perhaps, insurance will focus more on whether an autonomous vehicle breaks down — and passengers get a refund if they are delayed, a bit like air travel. Expect new insurance models to emerge.

4. Software
Over the next ten years, the differentiating source of supply and value in the automotive industry will not be car parts or engines. Increasingly, the sector’s supply chain will be about software – and which apps are loaded onto each autonomous vehicle. Never mind the size of the engine, which operating system is your autonomous vehicles running? This is where the big software companies will be doing battle.

5. Security
Tragically, cars have been used by human drivers in various attacks over the years around the world, with devastating consequences. In some ways, autonomous vehicles could have safety features hard-wired that prevent humans from ‘weaponising’ vehicles. But there’s also the risk that hackers will attempt to take control of cars, as they do with PCs, webcams and other Internet devices. Security products and services for autonomous vehicles will become an important sector in its own right.

6. Car manufacturers
In the future, will the iconic car brands that we know and love end up creating ‘vanilla’ vehicles … dumb terminals on wheels that other companies inject with life and personality? In some respects, Yes. The dominant car manufacturers won’t be kings of the road any longer. They’ll have to adapt very quickly – or rust away.

Stefano Maifreni

The car brands that survive will have to manage two cycles side by side: vehicle design and technology development. They’ll need partners, large and small, to work with them. If not, they will need to acquire specialist businesses that offer the innovation they lack. This is starting to happen already.

7. My business
If you’re a small, forward-looking tech business, then the autonomous vehicle revolution is something to take seriously. It’s not so much about whether you need to leap into the auto sector: it’s more a case of whether this industry is heading your way fast, and you just didn’t realise it yet.

My company has spent the past five years spotting where new opportunities can be exploited as industries are redefined by disruptive tech. People are often so dazzled by the headlights that they miss a critical moment to jump on board and enjoy the ride. Make sure you see what’s coming down the road for your industry – and take full advantage.

The author of this blog is Stefano Maifreni, founder & director of Eggcelerate

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