Tech in CRE

What driverless cars at the Consumer Electronics Show mean for CRE

Even though the focus at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 2019 was on consumer tech, attendees and speakers discussed ideas like how crucial it is to be a tech-forward company and the necessity of connectivity—both important ideas in today’s commercial real estate landscape as well.

The biggest trend at the conference was that almost every car manufacturer had an autonomous car to present. Autonomous taxis were even available for conference attendees to use while in Las Vegas during their visit. So, why were driverless cars the focus of the event, and what does it mean for CRE?

What’s new for driverless cars?

Driverless cars covered more floor space at CES than the total size of many standalone car shows.

Major car manufacturers like Audi, BMW, Fiat-Chrysler, Ford, Hyundai, Mercedes, and Nissan each presented their own take on the autonomous vehicle, many with a primary focus on capabilities inside the car, rather than the self-driving technology itself. According to CityLab:

  • Mercedes presented “an urban ride-hailing/freight delivery van concept with wraparound seating that groups passengers by the length of their trips.”
  • “Japanese parts maker Denso showed off a rolling cube with boardroom-style seating and a shared work surface,” designed to be a mobile office.
  • French automaker Valeo offered a virtual reality experience of using an autonomous rental car, in which you could “(pretend to) pay extra for audio books, window privacy screens, some sort of personalized lighting scheme, scans of outside air quality, and other upgrades.”

Because we’re getting closer to the use of driverless cars in everyday life, it seems the interior features of these cars are now the focus over exterior–and actual driving–capabilities.

What do the new driverless car updates mean for CRE?

Clearly, car manufacturers and consumers alike are thinking about what it will mean in the near future to use your time in transit for socializing, working, or relaxing instead of just focusing on the road. And these changes in transit will also matter for the places we’re going.

One of the clearest implications is people won’t care as much about living near their offices, grocery stores, or favorite restaurants. Location will cease to be the most important factor in CRE, and office and retail tenants will be able to seek out less expensive, bigger spaces outside of major city hubs.

Plus, easily accessible parking will no longer be a concern, which will open existing parking lots and garages to be redeveloped as green spaces; multifamily, office, or retail buildings; or anything else that improves the quality of life for people who live, work, and play in a given location.

And the bigger picture: Analysts at IHS Technology have estimated that by the year 2025, 88 cities around the world will be considered “smart cities.” This means these cities will have smarter, more connected infrastructures, and city programs will run efficiently based on past data and machine learning.  Driverless cars and other modern transportation will play a key role in this infrastructure.

Even though consumer desire for driverless cars has recently gone down after widely-reported fatal incidents and the technology currently faces some bureaucratic roadblocks, the future of driverless cars as part of a smart city’s IoT network is still considered close to inevitable within the next decade.

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