Disruptive Innovation: Driverless Cars



In marketing and in business, innovation rules. The innovations can be modest – such as packaging changes; continuous – such as smart phones; or disruptive – such as a driverless car. Yes, the driverless car is on the horizon and is now even legal to ‘drive’ in California where it is not uncommon to see one of Google’s driverless cars on the local highways and streets in San Francisco.

But disruptive innovations such as this can have consequences far beyond the marketing sales of a lone product. Think about it for a minute…

What were the consequences of the Internet? The Internet has radically changed how people live, communicate, shop, and develop new products. It is an essential part of our business and personal lives, and more. For a minute, try to imagine a day without using the Internet and all the tools which depend on the Internet. It’s tough to go through a day without it. Just as it is tough to go through a day without driving an automobile.

Now, try to imagine all the things that will happen once driverless cars become routine. It will change how we drive, how we park, how we commute, and more. Driverless cars will change traffic, insurance, safety, and parking. Businesses, and societies, need innovation – but the results have far-reaching impacts on how we live. What happens next is up to us.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:


  1. This discussion comes under the heading of “innovation.”
  2. Review the various types of innovation. Also review the product life cycle model. Show were driverless cars will fit into these models.
  3. Show TED Talks video from Sebastian Thrun about driverless car and the ideas that spawned it: http://www.ted.com/talks/sebastian_thrun_google_s_driverless_car.html?Show
  4. Next, show video clips of Google’s driverless car in operation: http://www.youtube.com/channel/HCUyujUXL3_vc
  5. Discuss the consequences – both unintended and known – of the new car.
  6. Divide students into teams. Have each team list 10 changes that will happen due to the cars.

Source:  New York Times, 7/7/13

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