Having access to self-driving cars will disrupt the airline industry. Especially national flight carriers in large countries (e.g. US), are expect to see a 10% in flights when self-driving cars will be ubiquitously available.

Just imagine the following:

“Imagine someone who lives in Atlanta and needs to travel to Washington, D.C., for business. This is about a 10-hour drive. A flight takes about two hours, assuming no delays. Add to that the drive to the airport, checking in, the security line and waiting at the gate. Upon arrival in D.C., it may take another 30 minutes to pick up any checked bags and find a rental car – and even more time to drive to the specific destination. The average person would estimate a total travel time of four to five fours. Most people would choose to fly instead of driving themselves.

However, if they could have a fully driverless car take them there, the choice changes. Passengers could eat, drink, work and sleep during the 10-hour drive. They could leave whenever they want, and pack whatever they want – including liquids and pocketknives – with no searches or scans. When they get to D.C., they wouldn’t have to find a rental car and navigate to the actual place they’re going.

Which would you choose? Now imagine the self-driving car has a reclining seat with actual legroom, or even a bed. It’s more than a little tempting.”

This is a direct quote from a very interesting article written by The Conversation. Sometimes, innovation in one industry negatively impacts another industry in unexpected ways. Apart from such ‘negative impact’, certain innovations, product or trends are completely skipped by entire generations, as a result of an industry trend.

For example, M-PESA is a micro-financing service used in Kenya and Tanzania (among other countries). It allows people to receive and send money using their cellphone’s SMS service. This peer to peer payment network works so efficiently, that the need for bank account for the unbanked became significantly less.

Likewise, with the advent of cheaper, better and faster smartphones, entire countries skipped the use of laptops or desktop computers, being more expensive, bulkier and obviously didn’t allow phone calls. Myanmar is a good examples of this.

Going even further back, when the lightbulb was invented it gained popularity quickly (and for a good reason, of course!). However, the unexpected side effect was that the electrical infrastructure that was needed for the lightbulb (i.e. the electrical wires) paved the way for electric appliances (fans, washing machines, etc.) that used the lightbulb socket to be powered. As such, many industries were heavily impacted by the rise of electric appliances.

What can we take away from this?

We can take away from this that innovation can be disruptive not only for head-to-head competition in the same industry (e.g. the car industry), but also for (more unexpected) category competition (e.g. innovation). The original question: ‘which car should I take to go from A to B’, becomes: ‘What is the fastest or most comfortable way for me, to move myself from A to B?’

The original question: ‘which car should I take to go from A to B’, becomes: ‘What is the fastest or most comfortable way for me, to move myself from A to B?’

With exponential technologies entering our lives, companies should therefore expand their focus on traditional, direct competition to a broader field of players, which are able to disrupt the core business of those companies.