[Case Study] Freedom of the road: The impact of a network of driverless and shared cars

By Graeme Codrington 

Purpose:

Our brains are designed to think about incremental change – one small step at a time, taking us into a foreseeable future. But some changes are exponential, dramatic and impact whole sets of systems around us. When we learn to anticipate systemic changes, we open up big, bold views of the future and spark our imaginations. This allows us to identify key threats and opportunities we might be facing today.

Approach:

One clever way to learn to think in terms of exponential change and systemic implications is to look at scenarios of how the future might look.

TomorrowToday’s Future of Work Academy produces monthly “News bulletins from the future” for you, your team and even your family to use to do just that. Use them to catalyze conversations about the future and discuss implications of disruptive change on our world today. Use them to develop your brain’s ability to deal with exponential change. Use them as a kickstart a strategy session where you need to get people to think “outside the box”.

Content:

This case study is about the impact of a network of driverless, shared cars. Experts predict that this could happen as early as the 2030s, with the initial steps towards this scenario already starting now. The scenario pictures a world where driverless cars are compulsory and no human drivers are allowed.

When that happens, people will start sharing cars, and then everything changes. The scenario asks participants to brainstorm as many industries as possible that will be affected by a network of compulsory driverless, shared cars. The scenario is an easy one for most people to imagine, and the first order effects on the automobile industry and on professional drivers is fairly obvious.

The true power of this scenario, though, is the second and third effects that ripple through almost every sector of society and impact many other industries from construction to regional airlines. This helps participants realize implications for their own industry too. Participants not only get a glimpse of a highly probable future and see the path from today to that future quite clearly, they also get to see how systemic change impacts the world and experience a key aspect of futures thinking which they can apply to their own organisation and team.

Time:

The scenario takes about 10 minutes to explain, including showing a TV news bulletin from the future. The discussion section can take anything from a further 10 minutes up to 2 hours. Ideal time allocation for this exercise would be 30 minutes, plus a further 20-30 minutes if you wanted to do a brainstorm session focusing on your own industry in more detail.

Instructions:

  • Watch the FOWA Network of Driverless Cars video below (4 minutes).
  • Get the team to read the “News report from the future: shared cars” which adds extra information about car sharing. (Download pdf below)
  • Ask your team to brainstorm which other industries will be affected by a network of shared, driverless cars at some stage in the future. Use our facilitator guide “cheat sheet” to help them think about as many as possible. Don’t just give them the answers, but if they battle to think of implications, give them ideas one at a time to spark their imaginations.
  • Using the facilitator’s guide (download below) to help you, explain the concepts of looking at the horizon for weak signals and then looking for first, second and third order effects.
  • Instruct your team to think about how a network of compulsory driverless and shared cars will impact your own industry – not just in the late 2030s, but over the next few years.

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Scenario developed by Graeme Codrington, March 2017.