The automotive industry has always stood out as an innovator and pioneer in introducing cutting-edge solutions. It is currently facing a true revolution: zero emissions, connectivity and autonomous driving. A cocktail that will change the automotive sector forever.
Not only is the industry facing ever-accelerating technological change, but it is also facing a major demographic shift that brings new consumer perspectives on the concept of car and driving.
Driving has traditionally been associated by younger drivers with a pleasurable and liberating experience, the coming of age that allows autonomous mobility, independence, access to status, the car as a tool for self-affirmation.
For older drivers, the car (although not always), remains a status symbol and also for many of them a tool for fun. This is why, despite restrictive legislation, the success of sports car brands or high-performance car ranges among the generalist brands that do not meet rational criteria according to the existing speed limits is understandable.
Driving remains for many people an experience that generates adrenaline and unique sensations, a way of returning to youth and generating a smile. Primary sensations that are often decisive when it comes to buying a car.
Autonomous driving is a path that is difficult to turn back. Currently, 90% of accidents are caused by human error, and clearly autonomous driving would drastically reduce this figure. The advantages are obvious, taking into account that 1,250,000 people die annually in traffic accidents worldwide, according to the World Road Safety Report 2015 prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Autonomous driving, which may be in clear demand for people of advanced age or with handicaps that prevent them from driving, poses a challenge for brands in the core segment of young and middle-aged people. Autonomous driving involves moving from selling a “driving experience” to selling a mobility solution, from point A to point B. Product attributes such as power, acceleration, sportiness, steering feel, sound, may lose all value.
It seems obvious to think that no autonomous car will ever exceed speed limits, or skid out of a traffic light, or happily negotiate the curves of a mountain pass. It will simply move us from point A to point B. In these terms, brand differentiation becomes more difficult to imagine.
In any case, not only the automotive sector should start thinking about new business models, but this phenomenon will bring with it drastic changes in associated sectors such as the insurance sector, cabs, chauffeurs, overland freight transport, driving schools, etc.
Although there are already real tests of autonomous cars circulating in various cities around the world, it will probably take at least five years to consolidate the technology, adapt the legislation and begin to reach the consumer market. Automotive companies, obviously, but especially all sectors that may be affected by this trend, should immediately start thinking about the impact it may have on their businesses and start innovating their business model to look for opportunities in the face of this upcoming revolution in the sector.