Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Self-Driving Cars Will Destroy the Airline Industry

Saturday night, I dreamt I was in the seventh circle of Hell. Then I woke up, and I was on an airplane.

It was worse.

We left for the airport on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. We got to Grand Rapids at 1:35 a.m.

This included a three-hour layover plus a two-hour flight delay.

At one point, we sat in a Cantina Laredo at the airport, optimally positioned to see people literally sprinting by as they ran to make the tram.

It was quite a lot like watching the ponies, but with luggage.

At some point during the evening, I realized that if it was a drive shorter than ten hours, and the car drove itself, I would never fly instead.

--comfort (seats in cars are much, much nicer)
--space (leg room)
--climate (it's not freezing cold)
--entertainment (those devices can be charged as you drive)
--you know everyone in your car (sorry, randos)
--no chance of catching a disease from previously-mentioned randos
--it's your schedule, not the airline's
--snacks aren't 2X their regular price
--multi-hour delays are less frequent (at least in most parts of the country)

That's a long list.

When I fly, I marvel at how the airlines have designed seemingly almost everything in a way that is guaranteed to piss most people off. And over their long history, it seems like service has always been regarded as poor (in the last four decades it has been, at least).

Would this ever change? No.

What if everyone just started taking their self-driving cars instead? Well, that's an interesting scenario, because the airlines would actually be competing with something viable then.

What would make this all work would be the government making a major investment to rebuild and improve the interstate highway system. But since the government only pays for weapons now, that seems unlikely.

Fifty years from now: cars with optional sun filters that can lower the light level to almost nothing (even the windshield, because nobody needs to see out of it anymore). Sitting in the cool darkness, watching movies, then emerging at your destination.

Scenario two: all the windows in cars will also be displays, and as you drive through the country (sun shades up this time), you can constantly read about the history and local color of the areas you're driving through.

Just keep me off the plane, please.

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