Are Ridesharing Companies the New Airlines?

Reading through Frank Chen’s terrific eight-part series on self-driving cars and the world, I was struck by his comparison of ridesharing companies and airlines.

“The first structural change is to imagine whether the car value chain becomes a little like the airplane value chain. When you book a flight today your primary loyalty is to a carrier. Does the carrier go to the city that I want does it go, when I want, and is the price right? And so you think mostly about a relationship that you have with Southwest or Delta or China Southern, depending on where you live and what loyalty plan you belong to. You don’t make a decision primarily on the type of aircraft because that’s a decision the airline makes.

The car value chain is not like that at all today. We make very personal decisions about the cars that we drive and the models that we drive and the options that we put into our cars.

But if we shift to self driving, this value chain could actually look a lot like the airline value chain. Your primary decision about who will drive you around will have to do with brand loyalty and safety and whether the fleet operator has the type of car and whether it’s close enough and how long it’s going to take for them to come pick you up and price and that type of thing. The make and model of the car will become the least important; in fact you don’t care about that decision in the same way that most of us don’t care about whether we’re riding in a Boeing or Airbus or Embraer airplane. So the value chain could end up looking a lot like the airline value chain.”

That’s a really interesting, and easy-to-grasp, take on the future of the mobility industry.

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