Today is marijuana day in Canada. I have no opinion on whether this is a good thing or not for our country. The older I get, I seem to be embracing the value of an altered reality more and more, but I seem to accomplish my goals exclusively and nicely with red wine, so I am not rushing out to buy weed. With marijuana, I certainly see a business opportunity for sure, and I took a stock position in both Canopy Growth and Aurora that have shown to be lucky gambles with profits that should pay for at least a couple years of Queen's University tuition.
With cannabis becoming legal today, my thoughts were not on the excitement of scoring a joint, but what does this mean for our roads? I drive a motorcycle (my wife and kids hate it and think I am an idiot and that may be true), and now that we have both alcohol and marijuana to contend with, I am closer than ever to selling the bike.
In 2016, 10,497 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for 28% of all traffic-related deaths in the United States. Of the 1,233 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2016, 214 (17%) involved an alcohol-impaired driver. According to MADD Canada in 2014, road crashes involving alcohol claimed 2,297 lives. Every year, 1.2 million people die worldwide in car accidents.
If you have been a long time reader of our newsletter you have heard me rant on my opposition to self-driving cars; a position that I am now rethinking. I love cars for their design, power, style, legacy, but mostly, for the freedom that driving allows - cars mean independence. The car industry for 130 years, has been slogging our ability to "go" and by go I mean wherever we want. Cars have been sold by branding the driving experience - If the ad is for a sports car it will show a windy road, if it's for a pick up truck it will show a family camping or hauling a crazy big boat or something similar. So what happens if we change the driving experience from the driver to the passenger?
On average it costs $35,000 to buy a car that is parked 95% of the time. When you calculate the cost of a car, plus insurance, plus maintenance and then add time of driving, Americans spend a collective $4.5 trillion each year to own a car. That's a bit crazy, but that's the way it has been for 130 years. We love our cars so much that in our recent NAFTA dialogues, we predicted the end of our economy if the auto industry was to be hit by tariffs.
Self-driving cars will be our future; there is no way that will not happen. Instead of resisting, I am starting to see how this could be the biggest socio-economic shift since, well the car! We are now used to living in a subscription-based economy where we pay $10 subscriptions for our music, our videos and so much more - how about transportation as a subscription rather than a lease or ownership where we pay a fee and a vehicle is ready on demand, whenever we wish that will be safer and more reliable than any human driver?
Part of my resistance to driverless vehicles was that I would lose control of a favorite pastime, that being driving. (I was asked once if driving is such a passion for me, why do I text and drive? - Wouldn't a passion suggest undivided attention? Good point.)
So what if we move the emphasis from being driver-centric to passenger-centric and we start envisioning the car as more than just a car? - what if you have to be in Montreal for an early morning meeting, so instead of flying from Toronto and grabbing a hotel, you call up a self driving van that has a double bed, kitchenette and shower and you sleep through the night while being "driven" to your destination?. See how the future could disrupt the hotel and airline industry? What if Amazon develops autonomous buses that house their 500 top selling SKUs that you can summon to your home within 15 minutes? How about a Starbucks Sprinter van where you can conduct a coffee meeting with the team in advance of the presentation that's 45 minutes away? The opportunities become endless once we take our hands off the wheel.
If we start to look at cars as passenger focused, the opportunities become endless. Two sites that inspired my new direction are Waymo, Google's driverless division and M-City the pilot project in Ann Arbor Michigan. Worth a read. And if anyone is looking for a motorcycle, give me a call!
As always thanks for reading.