- The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we live, travel, and spend our money – both temporarily and permanently.
- The transportation industry, like much of the global economy, is a completely different landscape than it was just a few months ago.
- We asked top leaders across the transportation sector how the coronavirus will change their company, industry, and the world. Their answers are below.
- This feature is part of a series based on conversations with more than 200 CEOs on how business will be transformed by the coronavirus. To read more, click here.
The transportation industry, like the rest of the global economy, is a completely different landscape than it was just a few months ago. The coronavirus pandemic hit the industry hard, and will, in many ways, change it permanently.
Airlines are flying cargo instead of passengers to stay afloat. Public transportation, shared rides, and newfound methods of mobility seem less like ways to solve urban congestion and more like ways to contract a virus we cannot see nor detect. Roads are empty, remote work seems less like an exception and more like a future, and residents of big cities are rethinking whether that’s the life they want to live once all of this passes. No one knows when we as a whole will deem it acceptable to fly in cramped economy cabins again, let alone in the dreaded middle seat.
When this does pass, it’s hard to say what transportation – and the world in general – will look like. Thus, we asked top leaders across the industry three questions: How will the coronavirus change your company, your industry, and the world?
Their answers, edited for length and clarity, are below.
Bob Wheeler, CEO of Airstream: ‘There’s some indication that as we settle into a new normal, folks will forgo air travel, cruises, and overseas trips in favour of destinations closer to home.’
There is really no part of our business that has not been impacted by the coronavirus and the resulting recession. We were forced to shut down our production operations almost immediately and have spent the last weeks rightsizing the company for the new market realities when we return.
We went from sneaking up on the idea of a remote, dispersed workforce to having to embrace the practice immediately. Our days of welcoming 800 production associates to work every morning are over, and we’re planning a health assessment for folks as they arrive at work.
But recreational-vehicle industry is well positioned to survive big downturns, with high variable and relatively low fixed costs. So we can scale down quickly and, when the market returns, scale back up to meet the need. And as we start to envision the post-COVID, post-recessionary landscape, we see many indicators that point to a strong recovery for the RV industry, perhaps ahead of the economy as a whole.
There’s some indication that as we settle into a new normal, folks will forgo air travel, cruises, and overseas trips in favour of destinations closer to home. RVs are the perfect vehicle for that kind of mindset. You can move at your own pace, and bring along your own environment in which to live and cook and relax. RVs give you the flexibility to choose the travel experience that works best for you, no matter the circumstances.
Laura Schwab, President of Aston Martin in the Americas: ‘Customers will welcome the power shifting back in their direction.’
The way we operate is evolving; we’re not yet sure what changes will come to fruition.
Car sales won’t likely be as linear a process as it’s always been. As a small, nimble luxury brand, we’re used to adjusting everything we do to individual preferences. Even still, we’re contemplating how the new “customer journey” will look. Prospects and customers will now have more options for how they interact with our team, the brand, and the cars.
Businesses with a mass-market approach may need to adjust, because people’s behaviour and comfort will increasingly vary based on regions, family circumstances, beliefs, and concerns.
As more customers expect to be met on their own terms, volume retailers will likely need to behave more like luxury retailers by tailoring their approach to the individual. Retailers that answer that call will be rewarded.
Customers will welcome the power shifting back in their direction, and they deserve that. Brands and retailers will now need to work hard to listen to these customers’ needs, and they will uncover ways of meeting customers on their own terms.
Chris Urmson, CEO of Aurora: ‘Long term, shared mobility is the only viable answer as we continue to urbanize.’
We’ve been in a good position from day one because we invested in simulations. That’s how we’ve been able to be so efficient. At some point, we’ll be able to operate again, but we think with simulations we can amplify the actual miles we’ve driven.
Our vehicle operators are employees rather than contractors. We’ve kept them on during the crisis and pointed them at different jobs, such as analysing vehicle logs, and that’s allowed us to make faster progress. When we do return to the road, these folks will be better at their jobs.
Consolidation is going to happen [in the autonomous-mobility business], much like in many industries early on. Some companies are going to be winners, but some are going to succumb, and the crisis could accelerate it. Strong companies will be able to raise funds. There’s still capital out there, but it’s going to be more selective. More broadly, as far as transportation goes, in the short term there could be an aversion to shared vehicles with an increased desire to be in one’s own vehicle. But long term, shared mobility is the only viable answer as we continue to urbanize.
At the highest level, our thesis remains the same, whether you’re at Aurora as an employee or investor: moving people and stuff through the world matters, and doing it more safely and with better economics matters. The pandemic doesn’t change that – it shines a light on opportunities to improve logistics and supply chains.
More broadly, it highlights the interconnectedness of the world, the importance of good communications, and the advantages and challenges of globalism. Maybe in the long term that’s a good thing for us to viscerally recognise: Although we may differ as nationalities, what happens to some of us has an impact on all of us.
Rob Wiesenthal, CEO of Blade Urban Air Mobility: ‘What we’re doing now is making our fliers comfortable.’
When we started with the lockdowns, the rules were extremely clear about what we as individuals need to do to protect ourselves and to protect others. Those social contracts are now in a different phase, with so many states opening up and people making their own decisions about how they want to live through this.
We’re in the epicentre of this in terms of New York City – me as an individual and a CEO, and us as a business. What we’re doing now is making our fliers comfortable. We decided masks were going to be mandatory for employees, for passengers, for pilots. Gloves were going to be mandatory for pilots and employees. Temperature checks and oxygen checks. We reduced capacity in helicopters and sea planes. We also redeployed our fleet of cars from doing airport transfers.
Plus, people flying in on Blade – a lot of our current clientele are residing outside of the city, but coming back in periodically for work – didn’t feel comfortable using ride shares. So we’re able to offer uniform, secured cars.
I think in six months, people will be more comfortable with ride shares, but we wanted to offer something with a uniform health and safety protocols. The reason people are flying us is because of those protocols, and what’s the point of going through that protocol if the next mode of your journey doesn’t have that? We’re offering multimodality.
Bill Nash, CEO of CarMax: ‘Customers will no longer accept being forced into a dealer’s preferred model.’
As safety is more important than ever for our associates and our customers, we’ve established the “Distancing & Disinfecting” initiative, focused on enabling social-distancing practices and enhanced sanitizing in all locations.
We’ve also launched Contactless “CarMax Curbside” to enable customers to complete the car-buying and selling experience outside the store with adherence to the social-distancing practices.
Business agility has also been critical during this crisis. CarMax operates in 41 states nationwide, and has been very focused on meeting ever-changing regulatory requirements to ensure our stores can continue to remain open and provide essential services to our customers.
The consumer’s behaviour has changed in a lasting way because of this pandemic. Customers are seeking safety, personalisation, and convenience more than ever before in how they shop for and buy a vehicle.
First and foremost, with safety being top of mind for customers, it’s critical that retailers demonstrate the steps they have taken to reduce the risk of exposure and further spread of the virus. Customers will no longer accept being forced into a dealer’s preferred model, which in the past may have included spending hours in the dealership.
Even before this crisis, we were seeing customers interested in doing more of the transaction online and spending less time in store. This situation has only escalated this shift.
Ernie Garcia, CEO of Carvana: ‘More and more consumers are showing their preference for buying cars in an environment that requires less contact.’
More and more consumers are showing their preference for buying cars in an environment that requires less contact with other people.
Carvana was built for that from the beginning, and in today’s environment, we’ve made updates to the process like touchless delivery to address those changing consumer preferences. We expect others in the industry to make similar changes over time to ensure they can provide the kind of car-buying experience consumers are asking for.
When people think about the macro economy – which is what a lot of us likely think of when we think about world change – things like unemployment and interest rates come to mind first. I think the more important force in the economy is what people want, because people’s wants fundamentally drive everything.
When I go for a run now, people will cross the street to avoid coming too close to me, and I get that and it makes sense for the world we’re living in. We’re observing meaningful psychological changes right now, and those people crossing the street are what’s going to make the economy change, because they’re making different decisions about how they interact in the world.
Some businesses will pivot with these new consumer preferences, and others are going to find they don’t have a place in the new normal and they will have to find new things to do. We don’t know how long that retooling will take. Really, all the economy is, is you and me and the choices we make.
What choices are you going to make that will be different? Hundreds of millions of people will be doing the same thing, and those choices are going to make changes that are very hard to forecast right now.
Dan Ammann, CEO of Cruise: ‘With expanded simulation testing, we’ve barely missed a beat.’
We have prioritised two things at Cruise in this environment: 1.) keeping our extended Cruise family safe, and 2.) staying focused on our mission, in that order.
The Cruise team has done an amazing job of adapting to work from home and, with expanded simulation testing, we’ve barely missed a beat. We’re fortunate in that we’re stable, well funded and have a crystal-clear mission, and that’s a good position to be in right now.
Mike Parra, CEO of DHL Express Americas: ‘We’re going to see many customers say to us that they like the no-contact delivery.’
I think, initially, it’s going to have a change in how we operate in our workplaces in regard to things like appropriate social distancing and making sure that our employees’ cubicles and workspace, have the appropriate space in between each one of them.
In the elevators, we are already dictating how many people can ride in an elevator at one time. In our break rooms, or canteens, [we’re dictating] how many people can physically be inside a room at one time. We are closing down small meeting rooms. This is in preparation for return, because right now 40% of our staff is working from home, and 60% of our staff is frontline employees.
Now, what are the things that are going to change permanently? I think we’re going to see many customers say to us that they like the no-contact delivery and they will want that to continue. We’re no longer giving them a scanner, having them use a pen, having them sign on our scanner, and then returning the scanner back to us. That is probably something that will never return, from what I’m seeing.
Ramona Hood, CEO of FedEx Custom Critical: ‘We will remain a pillar in preserving the world’s infrastructure.’
The crisis has provided an opportunity to lean into our organizational strengths – adaptability, communication and business continuity.
As we begin to plan for the “next” normal, we will be agile in our approach, which includes making informed decisions by the day, hour, minute, or second. We are interested in gathering the thoughts and voices of our team members about their perspective of the crisis and using those insights to help shape our organisation moving forward.
Things are very fluid, and the only thing of certainty is that there will be changes, including to the transportation industry. We will remain a pillar in preserving the world’s infrastructure. The adoption of digital strategies will move forward at a faster pace to ensure business continuity to move commerce and aid in a crisis.
Henrik Fisker, chairman and CEO of Fisker Inc.: ‘A majority of the new EV startups will disappear over the next 24 to 30 months.’
We’ll focus on sustainability and creating cleaner vehicles. We’ve experienced the immediate, positive impact of less pollution from fewer vehicles on the road, and this experience can only be achieved with pure electric vehicles.
The automotive industry will never look the same again. There is no “back to normal.” Value for money will be a focus for a much higher percentage of buyers than ever before, combined with increased awareness of sustainability. The vehicle has to add to life enjoyment – it’s no longer the driving dynamics that will fulfil that attribute.
A majority of the new EV startups will disappear over the next 24 to 30 months, as they have focused on manufacturing and they will take too long to learn this highly complex, difficult area. Further, the next wave of EV buyers will have less patience for initial poor build quality and lack of reliability.
We will also understand the need to accelerate the process of cleaner mobility – mainly, quicker EV adoption and more incentives from governments to do so. The industry will look at digital ways to sell and deliver vehicles, and people will look at “luxury” vehicles in a new way. Automotive luxury will be redefined over the next years, and some traditional luxury automakers will not have the ability or brand to overcome this successfully.
Michael Silvestro, CEO of Flexjet: ‘I feel like the bar has been raised significantly in what is expected in an operator or a provider.’
I think there’s no doubt that we will have a heightened and scrutinous view in which we treat hygiene.
Just like any other recession, we’ve seen some of the smaller, weaker players cease operations. I feel like the bar has been raised significantly in what is expected in an operator or a provider. We essentially created a shuttle program where we took our entire pilot workforce out of [flying on] the airlines [for company travel]. We felt like that protected them, their health, their safety, and their well-being, and it would be appreciated by customers.
More on societal changes, I could only imagine that we’ll just be that much more aware of hygiene. I just think that’s probably a good thing in the long run and some things that we take advantage of will no longer be taken for granted.
There are always opportunities that come out of challenging times like this. There are certainly people who have the means, but have chosen not to fly private for whatever reason. That’s a potential change that could have our industry poised for more potential growth.
Jamie Walker, CEO of Jet Linx: ‘I think private aviation is going to see that first wave of travel in a way that commercial airlines don’t.’
A lot of what would change [in our industry] has already changed, I’d say from a sales perspective as well as an operations perspective.
From a sales perspective, we actually launched a new jet card product offer guaranteed services in a shorter window of time. Typically, our jet-card program, you join and there’s an annual renewal fee and you’re a member for 20 years.
In March, we actually introduced a 90-day jet card because we knew there are going to be some people looking for alternative options to commercial, but it might not be something they want to do for the next 20 years. It might be something that they just need to kind of bridge this pandemic. It’s now become about 22% of our sales.
I think [private aviation is] going to see that first wave of travel in a way that commercial airlines don’t. I think the consumer is now wanting that controlled cabin environment. And [the consumer is], unfortunately, used to the social distancing of six feet apart, that’s not something commercial can offer.
This is certainly a storm that all industries are weathering. I think the face of our industry will certainly change on the other side of this. There [are], unfortunately, going to be some companies that don’t make it through, and I think that there’s going to be some consolidation.
I think there’s going to be just a different look and landscape for our segment of the industry, which is unfortunate.
Phil Popham, CEO of Lotus Cars: ‘The nature of vehicle retailing may also change, with new buying patterns and behaviours emerging.”
We are aiming for a phased return to work from May 11, and preparations for that are ongoing. We will be guided by the UK Government as to whether that remains achievable and what has to change operationally. One obvious example is that when we do return to work, day-to-day engagement around our facilities will have to be different in order to minimise the risk of the virus spreading.
Where new cars sales have been affected, a coordinated “bounce back” strategy supported by OEMs, trade bodies and national governments will be vital to restore consumer confidence. What those look like remains to be seen, and will vary by market based on the impact of COVID-19. The nature of vehicle retailing may also change, with new buying patterns and behaviours emerging that could be quite interesting.
It’s the big question and no one really knows. Times of upheaval and uncertainty have previously sparked periods of change, and it’s often said that crises are what shapes history.
It would be easy to be pessimistic about the future, but I prefer to be optimistic. There will be challenges ahead but I also think there will be huge opportunities.
Benjamin Fraser, CEO of Ready.Set.Van: ‘We’ve already seen a pretty strong uptick in demand for vans that are already built.’
Honestly, I think [the coronavirus] is probably going to be quite good for the camper-van industry. For the next year at least until there’s a vaccine, I don’t think anybody’s going to want to go to a resort, get on a plane, or even go and stay in a hotel in a densely populated city. People are trying to figure out what they can do. Getting in a car and going somewhere is something most people feel like they can do.
We’ve already seen a pretty strong uptick in demand for vans that are already built. For us it’s been so much more interest than we could possibly ever supply for a van that’s ready to go. When we say we don’t have [something] that’s built and ready to go, their interest drops off.
Our communications people can work from home, but obviously, we can’t build vans from home. Me and [three] of the guys [are] living out of vans at the shop. I go home to visit my family periodically, but we’ve just quarantined ourselves here and everybody agrees that it’s the best thing.
I have a pretty grim view on [the coronavirus]. We’re so incredibly grateful to be in a thriving business during this extraordinarily difficult time. But when I talk to all the various small-business owners that I know, every single one has a number of weeks or months that they can survive until insolvency. None of these people can survive six months.
I feel like there’s a freight train of economic calamity that’s bearing down on all of humanity and I think very few people have been willing to acknowledge the depth and breadth of the damage that lies ahead for us as individuals, as countries, as species.
Martin Fritsches, CEO of Rolls-Royce North America: ‘We see this as a time for discretion.’
The coronavirus pandemic will change the way we operate mainly in the marketing arena, where we already interact with clients very personally: Immediately, we are increasing our use of digital interactions, social media, digital communications targeted very specifically and personally at our clientele.
Once we being speaking face to face with clients, I expect to see smaller more intimate outreach and interactions. We have traditionally eschewed mass meetings, and if anything, we will only become more intimate.
As a participant in the luxury industry, we see this as a time for discretion – a time to focus on the lives and health of our clients and people who love to follow the Rolls-Royce brand. This feeling of discretion and post-opulence will influence our patrons in the near future.
However, as we’ve seen before, Americans celebrate success and are not shy about it. In the long run, we expect this celebration to evolve but remain.
Our clientele is currently preoccupied leading their businesses. Rolls-Royce [vehicles] are not immediate purchases, but we know they will be more active once the crisis has passed.
We’ve all learned how to adapt, and quickly. I think this will make an impact on reacting to all kinds of challenges, and we will see more innovation and adaptation throughout our lives. The shift to a more personal way of using digital communications, face-to-face video, and information sharing will definitely continue to be more prevalent.
Jason Middleton, CEO of Silver Air: ‘The biggest thing we’re going to need to see in our industry is consumer confidence.’
This [pandemic] has changed the way we operate in a meaningful way. We’re looking at this in three phases. The first phase was catching up: trying to build new processes, write the processes down, all [while] addressing health and safety for primarily our crew members and passengers to protect them.
We did all that early on and then said: “OK, what do we do now?” We made the decision to retain all employees and not do any layoffs. Once the industry turns on, we’re going to need all these people, so we really made the effort to keep all these people.
The third phase that we’re looking at is what does the future look like for our industry. It’s very important for us to get very granular and create next-level best practices in terms of health and safety.
The biggest thing we’re going to need to see in our industry is consumer confidence, I think that’s going to be a massive thing because people are concerned. We’re going to have to be diligent about things we do in the future, including: Where do we go? Silver Air operates all over the planet. As an industry, we’re going to have to a better job at how we operate and how the crew interacts with the public when they go to those places.
I think the world is going to change in the fact that we’re much more aware that these pandemics are real, they can happen, and now they have happened. We’re going to need to be more diligent as a global community about how we travel around.
Jude Bricker, CEO of Sun Country Airlines: ‘We’re having an increased reliance on our cargo business.’
There are three ways at the top of mind [that this will change the way we operate]. One is the obvious, in which [our airline] will be substantially smaller than we thought would have been. We were in rapid growth mode over the last couple of years, and it was in a demand environment that was supportive of this growth.
It was just a really, really positive environment which changed in a matter of weeks in the middle of March, and now we’re in a mode of shrinking into what demand exists and trying to be there when we see recovery. The schedule philosophy has shifted from “What’s the best thing we can do to the aeroplane?” to “What can we do with an aeroplane that makes a positive cash contribution?” and changing with a very volatile situation on passenger demand.
Then second one is we’re dealing with passengers and crew members that are justifiably concerned about the personal safety during this period of increased anxiety and concern, and so we’re having to make these processes and communications to make people feel more comfortable getting on the aeroplane.
And then the third one is that we’re having an increased reliance on our cargo business.
[Airlines are] all dealing with the same challenge, which is more equipment and personnel than we need to support the diminished demand. And so, we kind of went through the phase of everybody whacking their schedules down and what flights were out there selling were incredibly discounted. I think the airlines have largely rationalized, they have gotten some support from the feds and so we’re not in any liquidity crisis as an industry in the short term. And now it’s more about trying to get better to a sustainable level and match capacity with demand. You can see really volatile schedules from all the airlines; we’re all trying to respond to customer behaviour that’s changing really rapidly in the very near term. And it’s challenging the whole industry.
I think flying is going to be a little bit different of experience for a while. The planes are going to be emptier than what we were used to just a couple of months ago. Everybody’s going to be a little more anxious, you’re going to see masks on most flying customers, crew members are going to be masked up, the planes are going to be a lot cleaner than you probably were used to and service levels are going to be diminished.
Traditionally, economic downturns have brought people together in some ways unexpected. I think that, for my business in particular, there’s going to be a pent-up demand of people connecting with one another, and we’ll be there to take advantage of that and provide that service.
Andre Haddad, CEO of Turo: ‘We anticipate road trips and personal auto travel will rebound faster than group travel.’
Looking ahead to the post-isolation world, protecting the health of our community through cleaning and disinfecting Turo cars before every trip is our top priority. We will also double down on our investment in contactless check-ins by expanding Turo Go, which allows guests to unlock Turo cars directly from our mobile app.
As home isolation orders are lifted yet physical distancing remains top of mind, we anticipate road trips and personal auto travel will rebound faster than group travel. Travellers will prefer the privacy and comfort of travelling in their own car with close family and friends, and Turo is well positioned as the leading car sharing marketplace to fulfil those trips.
In addition, with record-high unemployment rates and economic uncertainty, car owners will be looking for alternative ways to offset the costs of their car and earn extra income. By sharing their cars on Turo, car owners can generate income for their families that will help them weather this difficult economic storm.
Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber: ‘We need the partnership of governments to improve the standards for the whole gig economy.’
As one of the world’s largest platforms for work, we believe Uber can and will play an important part in the economic recovery of cities around the globe. It’s still unclear what the full economic impact of this crisis will be, but there is no question it will take time to recreate jobs for the millions of employees who have lost theirs over the last two months. Our economy has changed and I believe we will all change with it.
This crisis has underscored that for many independent workers, the status quo simply isn’t good enough; especially in moments like this, now and in the future, the safety net must continue to grow to catch them too. Platforms like ours have a responsibility to raise the standard of independent work. Yet we can’t do it alone. We need the partnership of governments to improve the standards for the whole gig economy. Some have argued that we should scrap independent work altogether, but as this crisis has shown there is real peril in mandating that you can only earn a living or work a few additional hours a week if you are an employee.
Millions of Americans have been laid off, furloughed, or had their hours reduced, and they will soon need a way to earn extra money quickly, safely, and flexibly, while balancing increased caregiving demands at home that don’t fit neatly into traditional schedules. A key focus of mine will be advocating for governments to require companies like ours to provide new protections and benefits to independent contractors, so that flexible work can rise to meet the moment, and be a bridge to the future as economies recover.
Daniel Ramot, CEO of Via: ‘The future of public transit may not look quite like we’re used to.’
The impact on us is just as great, if not probably greater than any other similar company, because we’re providing shared rides and the City of New York banned shared rides [in March]. We’ve transformed our service to a private-ride service, but that’s not our core business.
On the other side though, we have these partnerships with cities and transit agencies where we’re providing our software, and that has been much more resilient.
The reality is that the system no longer works. We are in a moment of time where every transit agency or city has to ask itself: “OK, I have to change my network, how should I do it?” That’s a much easier conversation for us to have and then say: “Well if you’re going to change your network anyway, why don’t you consider using technology and changing it in a smarter way than just cutting service?”
The demand patterns are very different and they’re hard to predict, so you actually need to be able to analyse the data, understand it, and react in real time.
I don’t think anybody knows [how the pandemic will change transportation], but I think you can imagine situations where you’re running public transit but you really want to manage capacity on the bus in a way that ensures social distancing. Say you don’t want more than 10 people at a time on a 50-person bus, so all of a sudden you need a booking system for the traditional bus.
Contact tracing is another piece – yeah, I’m taking the bus, but maybe it would be good to know who I was on with and whether that person got sick so I could take appropriate precautions. The future of public transit may still have a big piece of it that’s running fixed routes, but may not look quite like we’re used to.
Thomas Flohr, CEO of VistaJet: ‘The commercial network that was so well built over many, many years, and actually decades, has come to a complete stop.’
I think we need to look at two periods of time. We [initially] saw an unprecedented demand for flights from one continent to the other. In the January-February time frame, there was very strong demand away from Asia into the United States and Europe.
As the virus was in Europe in February, and moved on to North America as Asia was recovering, we saw the reverse trend that people were flying back into Asia after they were leaving Asia in the January-February time frame. This coincides with the massive reduction of commercial flight connections point-to-point being available.
Since the end of March, we have seen a reduction in our flight activity and this was obviously mainly due to the shutdown by governments and really only allowing the repatriation of nationals of different countries.
We see that the commercial network that was so well built over many, many years, and actually decades, has come to a complete stop. For a commercial airline to rebuild that network, that density of flights and routes, and do it profitably, will be a very, very hard job and might take years.
This is due to the fact that their business model is depending on the load factor – how many people they can get on a flight and then operate it profitably. So we’re seeing that with our business model of a floating fleet that we can immediately fly again when the governments are allowing it.
Undoubtedly, the experiments we’re all going through by using video conferencing, FaceTime facilities for quick meetings a quick exchange of ideas has certainly changed significantly our behaviour. So that in the short-term, I don’t see travel [is going] to rebound anywhere in the near future.
However, our client base, which are the chairmen and CEOs of significant companies, they still need to go and be with their companies. They need to go and see their customers.
That’s where we’ve seen over and again – that business is done between human beings, and it’s that travel which we believe should rebound first.
John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo: ‘We’ll need strong leaders and teamwork across nations to ensure we treat our planet better in the post-pandemic world.’
During this pandemic, we’ve suspended our public-road engineering testing and our operating services – both Waymo One, which moves people, and Waymo Via, which moves goods.
But most of the progress we’ve made developing the Waymo Driver over the last several years has come via the billions of miles we’ve driven in simulation. These days, all of our progress is a product of our massive compute-infrastructure and the simulation and evaluation techniques our talented engineers have developed.
We’ve continued to make great strides during this period, and it’s underlined even further the importance of improving the realism of our simulation tools.
Stay-at-home guidelines have obviously driven a tremendous reduction in demand for traditional human-piloted transportation services, such as ride-hailing, taxis, buses, trains, and air travel. Yet for those with access to their own private automobiles, the pandemic hasn’t changed their ability to move about the world. But for those without that luxury, choices now are narrower.
While we’ve yet to realise the long-term effects of this pandemic, we can imagine that society’s view on sharing space with a human driver may forever change. It’s here that we can see the potential of a world of automated transportation services piloted by the Waymo Driver, providing safe, accessible, and hygienic transportation for people and their loved ones, and the things they need in their lives.
Our new normal will be defined by new behaviours and expectations that will drive new products and services. For example, we’ll see appreciation for the benefits of cleanliness and hygiene. Companies and brands that do well here will earn the trust and loyalty of post-pandemic consumers.
As humans, we’ll crave, perhaps more than ever, face-to-face interactions, but at the same time we’ll seek out daily experiences that provide more physical and virtual privacy. These will be proxies for comfort and security.
And while many of us have found delight in the cleaner air that we’re experiencing as our global energy usage has declined, we’ll have to be vigilant about how some of our habits change as we start turning the lights back on.
Will we continue to push for renewable energy sources and CO2 reductions in a world of lower oil prices? Will our concern about hygiene lead us to more plastic packaging, fewer bulk supplies, more individual servings? I’m really worried about these things. We’ll need strong leaders and teamwork across nations to ensure we treat our planet better in the post-pandemic world.
Brad Jacobs, CEO of XPO Logistics: ‘Precise visibility into the exact location of goods and their projected trajectories will become even more important.’
I think supply chains will become more ironclad against disruption, and the lead actor will be intelligent technology.
Precise visibility into the exact location of goods and their projected trajectories will become even more important. Robotics is still in its infancy, but growing at an extremely fast clip. Intelligent analytics should deliver astounding gains in efficiency, safety, and customer service. This will help prepare for crises, assess risks, and forecast disruptions in the future.
One noteworthy side effect of the COVID-19 crisis is that many barriers between competitors have dissolved as we collaborate for the common good.
This crisis will come and go and the industry will settle back into familiar patterns, but it won’t be the same as before. Over time, it will be better. I think we’ve all become more human.
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