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As driverless cars become more capable and more common, they'll change people’s travel habits not only around their own communities but across much larger distances. A research has revealed just what proportion people’s travel preferences could shift, and found a replacement potential challenge to the airline industry.
Imagine someone who lives in Atlanta and wishes to visit 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 should take another half-hour to pick up any checked bags and find a rental car – and even longer to drive to the specific destination. The average person would estimate a complete time period of 4 to 5 fours. Most people would prefer to fly rather than driving themselves.
However, if they might have a totally driverless car take them there, the selection changes. Passengers could eat, drink, work and sleep during the 10-hour drive. They could leave whenever they need , and pack whatever they require – including liquids and pocketknives – with no searches or scans. When they get to D.C., they wouldn’t need to find a rental car and navigate to the particular place they’re going.
Which would you choose? Now imagine the self-driving car features a reclining seat with actual legroom, or maybe a bed. It’s more than a little tempting.
What do consumers say?
As experts in public opinion research, we all know that the American public loves how quickly flights can cover large distances, but hates the safety checks, long lines, delays, risk of losing baggage and overall hassle of the flying experience.
You must be knowing that at the moment, most people are reluctant to ride in driverless vehicles – including school buses and even ambulances that could speed their treatment in an emergency. However, a data also shows that as people find out about the advantages of driverless cars, they become more accepting of the new technology. Over time, people will feel comfortable using autonomous cars (and ambulances), a bit like they adjusted to riding within the first automobiles. A future with driverless cars means people will have more options to avoid driving on their own, beyond trains and buses.
In a study, it showed people trips of different lengths and asked them to choose whether they would rather drive themselves, take a flight or ride in a self-driving car. In general, the info indicated that folks always preferred driverless vehicles over manual driving. Taking a driverless car got even more attractive if people were told that after flying, they'd need a rental car in their destination city.
On short trips, with a five-hour drive, two-thirds of people would rather drive themselves. That didn’t change much once they were offered a self-driving car, unless they were told they'd need a car in their destination city. Then nearly three-quarters of people preferred a self-driving car to flying.
As trips got longer, people were increasingly likely to prefer flying, but self-driving cars were still a compelling option. On the longest trips we asked about, with a 45-hour drive, only about one in 10 people preferred driving themselves – but that changed to atleast once in six when the option was to possess a car drive itself.
How will this affect the airlines?
Losing even one in 10 customers would substantially reduce airlines’ revenue. They don’t make much money on each flight as it is; less income would likely cause them to shrink their service, flying fewer routes less frequently.
The problem wouldn’t just be customers who chose not to fly. Some passengers might split trips between self-driving cars and airplanes, which might further reduce airlines’ revenue. For instance, a person in Savannah, Georgia, who wants to travel to London could prefer to change planes in Atlanta – or take a self-driving car to the Atlanta airport, and skip the layover.
These changes could substantially change the aviation industry, with airlines ordering fewer airplanes from manufacturers, airports seeing fewer daily flights and lower revenue from parking lots, and even airport hotels hosting fewer guests. The future of driverless cars is appealing to consumers – which suggests the future of commercial flight is in danger.
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