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Self-Driving Cars: 10 Industries that Will Be Disrupted by Autonomous Vehicles

A March post on the CB Insights blog listed 21 industries — in addition to the auto industry — that self-driving cars will disrupt in the coming years. A few, like the oil and insurance industries, are no-brainers, but others we hadn’t really thought much about.

Autotrader pulled 10 industries from the list that we think might surprise you.

  1. Hotels and Motels: Already under pressure from alternative overnight-lodging options such as AirBnB, VRBO and HomeAway, hotel and motel chains are preparing for the even greater challenge presented by autonomous vehicles (AVs). The days of spending money to stay overnight at a motel during a long trip may be over once AVs allow travelers to snooze in their cars without stopping. Why waste $80 and lose 10 hours of driving time stopping at a motel?
  2. Airlines: Although, as a whole, the airline industry has made some strides improving the flying experience since its low points after 9/11 and the 2009 recession, flying across the country can hardly be characterized as enjoyable. When presented with the option of traveling the longer distances many of us now fly in a driverless car instead, many travelers may just choose going by AV rather than dealing with the hassles flying involves. (Not to mention avoiding renting a car upon landing.)
  3. Public Transportation: A huge chunk of the people who currently rely on public transportation may well bail on buses and commuter trains when presented with the option of having an AV drop them at the doorstep of wherever they need to be before driving itself back home or to some remote parking lot, where it will wait to be summoned back for the commuter’s return trip home. Even school buses could become relics.
  4. Auto Parts/Auto Repair: CB Insights listed these separately, but both will be gravely affected by self-driving cars for the same reasons. Most of today’s accidents are caused by human failures of one sort or another. Experts expect AVs to wipe away those types of crashes. Eliminating most collisions will translate into a reduced demand for auto parts, as well as less need for body and repair shops. Combined with AVs experiencing less wear and tear on components like brakes, demand for parts and repair will suffer.
  5. Ride Hailing: Despite the ride-hailing companies like Uber positioning themselves to be ready for driverless cars, that shift could prove prohibitively expensive. Sure, in a world of AVs, ride-hailing companies will no longer need to pay drivers — but they will need to own their fleets. Today, the third-party drivers own the cars. Once the drivers are eliminated, though, the expense of buying and maintaining the cars will fall on the shoulders of the companies. That changes the business model considerably.
  6. Fast Food: What keeps fast-food restaurants like McDonalds and Burger King profitable are impulse buyers. These are people driving around who see a fast-food sign and make a split-second decision to pull in. In a world of driverless cars, people will input their destination, which the AV will drive to by the quickest, most direct route. Passengers busy doing other things are much less likely to take the time or make the effort to redirect their AV into a fast-food restaurant’s drive-through.
  7. Real Estate: Some experts believe AVs will turn real estate and property values on their ear. Driverless cars will mean less need for parking lots, parking garages and gas stations in downtown areas. Freeing up such real estate for other uses may drop the cost of urban commercial property. Likewise, people living downtown in pricey center-city homes to avoid a work commute may choose to relocate to a less expensive suburban spot. This shift in demand could affect urban and suburban property values.
  8. Driving Schools: Like cursive writing, driving schools will disappear in the face of technology. As the mastery of driving a car transitions from a must-have skill to a hobby, there will be little demand for driving schools.
  9. Traffic Enforcement: The need for traffic-enforcement officers, be they traffic cops, meter maids or accident investigators, will be greatly diminished once AVs own the streets and highways. AVs will always function responsibly and within the confines of any laws and regulations. No speeding, no reckless driving, few crashes and no illegal parking.
  10. Healthcare: Safety translating into substantially fewer collisions will be a huge benefit of the widespread acceptance of AVs. Fewer crashes mean fewer emergency room visits. This drop in emergency room activity, by some experts’ estimates, could cost the healthcare industry as much as $500 billion in annual revenue. On the bright side, emergency room wait times should shorten significantly.

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