Software will destroy transport – The era of drones

I gave a talk the other week for the Wicklow Enterprise Board on technology for 2014 and beyond. The foundation of it was based on Marc Andreessen’s “Software Will Eat the World” mantra. Software will eat the financial world (Kickstarter, Square, Stripe), software will eat the media world and I talked a bit about Drones and Google cars too. Goodbye news choppers, hello drones. So Amazon’s dronenet. People already saying it’s a PR stunt. Jeff Bezos isn’t Michael O’Leary (PR wise anyway). There is something in this.

Of course as I started writing this, I saw Chris Applegate’s post and that pretty much covers all of this so you can stop reading now. Chris thinks it will be transport/deliveries that will be disrupted first and I agree. We’re nearly there already.

Google have been testing driverless cars for years at this stage and the cars look less and less like moon rovers and more like mom-mobiles. Volvo and the Swedish Government will be allowing 100 driverless vehicles on the roads in 2017. Driverless cars are safer and more efficient.

Technology is bringing the world closer but to bring physical goods to these closer people, humans who get fatigued are driving the goods and they are legally obliged to rest every few hours. Humans are a bottleneck and software will route around that.

I think what we’ll see is automation starting off as a national backbone kind of thing. Hours from 1am to 5am for some paranoid governments. National routes are better mapped and have better infrastructure and over time the automation will get closer and closer to our homes. Driverless trucks delivering to Tesco, M&S but also to Parcel Motels where we already go to pick up packages.

Parcel Motel is already disrupting Amazon and other companies. You only deliver to the UK? No problem. Here’s my UK Parcel Motel address and they route it to Ireland where I pick it up. In Ireland delivering to a country that doesn’t have postal codes can make deliveries inefficient. Pick up points at petrol stations and shopping centres is very clever. They’ve made it an easy habit.

Eventually public transport will be disrupted like this with automated tag on and off buses being cheaper (slightly) than human driven vehicles. How do we Irish thank the driver then?

The Dronenet was actually suggested nearly 12 months ago, well before Amazon talked about it but of course then people agreed it would be the likes of Amazon that would do it. What about Apple though? They have an insanely good logistics infrastructure too. Wonder will a Cork man be looking into this?

Right now in Ireland and many other countries you need a pilot’s license to operate a drone, even if it’s a brittle lightweight one so delivery companies have a while to go yet but I do see drones (they don’t need to be flying ones) taking over the delivery of goods in the next while.

There’s money in gold rushes and of course as this evolves money can be made from supplying these companies or giving them routes. Land and mast space have made billions for companies that supply roof or hill space to mobile companies. What can be supplied to the drone net? Guaranteed lanes on toll roads? Low-flying routes over your land? Better local mapping? Charging stations?

With the money that will also pour into research on this, Ireland would be clever to take advantage and make itself a test bed. Ireland’s tax incentives for R&D are well utilised for tax scams efficiencies by big tech as it is. But alas we won’t be there for the Cambrian Explosion of this new tech but will instead just give grants to companies already making fortunes from the area and ask them here to set up tech support centres. Ignorance on the way up, tax breaks on the way down. We do that well.

Update: Done experts says Drone Net is nearer than we think.

4 Responses to “Software will destroy transport – The era of drones”

  1. Niall Larkin says:

    Nice. I really like the idea of piggybacking on existing transport/communication routes.

    That’s something that could be legislated for (relatively quickly) and has a lot of potential.

    Imagine if drones were given exclusive license to fly in the airspace above double deckers but below bridges…

    And they could hitch rides atop public transport to conserve energy/extend range, hopping on and off the roofs of buses and trains..

    There could even be recharging stations on top of bus shelters and old public payphone kiosks could be converted into Parcel Motels.


    …eh no more coffee for me thanks.

  2. I would like to subscribe to your newsletter Niall!

  3. Stephen Murphy says:

    I like the approach MatterNet are taking with this ( where they see it as an opportunity for the developing world to make a quantum leap in transportation, particularly of life-saving medications. Check out their TED talk.

    How long before the NSA have an insect-sized drone following everyone on the planet without our knowledge and recording everything we do and say? Maybe they already are… I hear something buzzing…

  4. […] going around the place (and even people with backpacks). Google already does driverless cars. So drones. And low and behold the FAA now are allowing trials of pilotless drones. No more traffic […]