Jun 15, 2016

Uber, Airbnb, and Tesla – A Generational Pivot on Assets and Distribution

I read an article recently on Tesla and the potential impact on our culture of self-driving or automated cars in the future.  The staggering takeaway for me was not the amazing technological advances of Tesla, which is incredible by any measure.  But, it was this interesting idea that we might not be too far away from a new model of car usage where ownership of one or two (or more) personal vehicles might be a thing of the past.

I allowed myself to think of car ownership and personal transportation differently than my own existing mindset.  Try this on for size.  Consider the appealing notion of having a non-combustible engine car on demand through a “pay for usage model” – accessible by the push of a button on an app – that can whisk a passenger from one place to another through an integrated system of managed traffic.  I started to think about the benefits.  More integrated and controlled traffic flows. No ownership and cost of owning of a car when it is not in use, sitting in my driveway or garage.  (Who would need a garage for that matter?)  Less pollution.  A lot of potential upsides.  And, yet perhaps this model would also deliver some downsides, like less freedom and flexibility, or no more Sunday drives to the Oregon Coast. 

The truth is we are witnessing a generational trend on using technology to leverage personal assets and the distribution of them.  Uber is killing the traditional taxi industry by empowering anyone with a car and a good driving record the ability to redistribute those assets for financial gain and other consumers benefits.  Airbnb is empowering anyone with a fixed use house to expand the use of it to others when it is not being used.  And, Tesla and the lithium ion explosion in electric and automated cars will, many predict, change the model of car ownership for many.

Now, the really important thought.  What is the impact on education?  Where are the latent assets in our existing model with fixed costs and unused capacity that could be leveraged for financial gain and other people’s benefits?  If education as an industry usually follows suit – just a generation later than other industries – we have a little time to think and prepare for how this generational pivot might be felt in our industry.  I would love your thoughts on this one.  

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