What does the future of limousine service look like?
We are not the only ones who are grappling with this question – it affects the future of the limousine service sector. How will customers who book chauffeured vehicles nowadays plan their mobility in five, ten or twenty years?
What is currently happening on the market?
A large up-and-coming American company has already answered this question for itself. It recently concluded a preliminary contract with Mercedes-Benz for 100.000 driverless Mercedes S-Class sedans. Moreover, for some time now, it has itself been involved in the development of autonomous cars. Some analysts predict that driverless luxury vehicles will take care of the mobility needs of sophisticated clients in the foreseeable future. Indeed, this particular company plans to play a leading role in this development.
How should limousine service providers react?
It is a matter of survival that companies stay abreast of important developments in relevant markets and to evolve on an ongoing basis. In our view, it is necessary for every limousine entrepreneur to find out – also in terms of his strategic planning – what customers think about this driverless mobility solution and how they would react if corresponding services were available.
What speaks for driverless mobility when travelling?
The most important factor is the price. The driver and office support staff have always constituted the biggest share of this service’s total price tag, which would be significantly reduced by automation and the dispensing with both the chauffeur and the office staff.
Already today it is possible to book chauffeur service over the Internet or Smartphone apps. Thus, the journey’s starting point and final destination – along with possible interim destinations – are known and can be programmed into the vehicle’s software. The passenger could call the vehicle, per click on his mobile phone, whenever he needs it. I thus don’t envision any problems with the technical feasibility of finding a perfect solution within a few years.
What speaks against autonomous mobility?
The main argument against driverless options is that there is no human contact person, assistant or helper. This service would turn into a self-service for the customer. How will the baggage be taken to the car and how will it be loaded? How will changes to the itinerary be communicated to the vehicle? Who will be there to recommend an outstanding restaurant for a business dinner? And who would be available for conversation?
Another factor that must be illuminated is the aspect of security. The research community suggests that autonomous vehicles have a slightly lower incidence of accidents. This argument is understandable. But what about the personal safety of a high-ranking politician or CEO of a major company? Based on previous experiences with IT-based systems, it is to be expected that hackers can compromise this technology. Is it conceivable that even kidnappings per input by keyboard will become a possibility in the future? Is a scenario possible where words that are spoken in the vehicle are splashed all over the Internet a few minutes later?
Our opinion on this topic
It is hard to imagine that individuals who take advantage of chauffeur services nowadays will consider a switch to driverless services just because of the cheaper price. Perhaps it will be necessary to conduct a survey and come up with an appropriate analogy.
All across the globe, you will find that the limousine service clientele tends to frequent 4 or 5-star hotels. Would these sophisticated customers be willing to check in and out using a machine rather than being welcomed by a friendly staff member who speaks three or four different languages? Would these same guests order their food and wine at a restaurant without the sound advice of a waiter or sommelier? How would you like to be served machine-made food by a robot? And anyway, would dispensing with human beings actually lead to a drastic reduction of potential error sources? These questions can all be answered with a resounding ‘no’.
In our opinion, the human factor – with all the concomitant flexibility and ability to interact with demanding clients – will not be replaceable in the coming decades. Instead, we envision driverless systems in public transportation (local and long-distance) and in the taxi business.
Talk to us
Did we omit something important? Tell us what you think. Do you agree with our arguments or do you take a different view? We are looking forward to your comments, especially if you are a (potential) user of luxury mobility services or if you are in the limousine business yourself.