Ned Ludd was Right!
As I wrote the other day, even with a driverless car cost of multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s fairly easy to see them becoming a reasonable option for certain enterprise functions pretty soon. After all, a half-million driverless car might seem to be prohibitively expensive compared to paying for people, but if it can last a few years you can amortize the cost. Yet in a column about how driverless cars are 10 years away, Richard Nieva really buries the lede. Namely, that the equipment for the Google Car now only costs about $150,000 plus the cost of the car. Given that it can operate 24 hours a day and doesn’t need any pay, that seems like a win for the logistics operators of the world.
If I were running a logistics company and I could get my hands on one of those for $150,000 I’d have it on the road testing as soon as humanly possible. The only things standing in the way are the lack of production vehicles and regulatory issues, and resolving the latter will probably resolve the former very quickly. In short, I think the main piece of evidence cited for the self-driving car being far off demonstrates just how close they might be.
Incidentally, I would be terrified if I were FedEx. Their ability to take advantage of this new technology is pretty limited – even testing this would probably cause a massive revolt from their employees for obvious reasons. Their infrastructure and brand are great positioning for them to try piloting the driverless car, but total internal opposition will be rough to overcome. Once someone with a fair amount of capital and no employees decides to take them on, they will eat FedEx’s lunch.