How Self Driving Cars Will Disrupt Westfield

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I’ve been reading Wheels magazine since I was about 12 years old. Before then I had a large Matchbox Car collection (not Hot Wheels). I love cars (not Hot Wheels).  If I wasn’t in advertising, I think I’d probably be an Uber driver. I can’t imagine not driving, but I fear that the days of driving are close to being over.

Let’s face it, car ownership is inefficient. You own 100% of an asset that gets used 5% of the time. You drive it to work, park it under your office all day while your second car sits in your garage at home in between school runs. It makes no sense when an Uber is just a button push away.

More to the point, as driverless cars come on to market, car ownership will disappear. Uber is the precursor to this change. GM just bought a chunk of an Uber competitor: Lyft. Now imagine an Uber that is electric, re-charged by the sun and driverless. The cost of a trip will be marginally more than public transport and you’ll never need to pay for parking either. I guess that’s why GM bought into Lyft, if people aren’t buying cars they need to find new buyers.

I prefer shopping on the high street or in the city, but I hate trying to find a park. So I end up going to a Westfield because parking is easy. Now imagine you had access to a driverless Uber. Rather than parking and walking five miles around a Westfield, you could get your Uber to drop you off at the shop you want to visit, and then circle the block until you’re ready for the next shop.

So in a driverless-Uber world, there is less of a need for a Westfield and more of an opportunity for individual stores in lower rent locations. This will change retail. It lowers the cost of entry for new retail concepts as driverless cars increase the traffic to previously low traffic areas. A parallel is the bar scene in Brisbane and Sydney since liquor licensing laws were relaxed. There is no shortage of great, new, original bars opening in both cities because the cost of entry has fallen. So the future retail landscape may be less dominated by chain stores and franchises, and instead we may see the rise of stores that are authentic and unique; stores that you want to visit and not just browse on-line.

I love cars and I love shopping but I fear my love of car shopping may not be shared by my five year-old son.

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