What Self-Driving Cars Could Mean for Petrol Stations

If you were a kid of the 1960s, you were probably sold the promise of flying cars. And while you might have got your wish, it probably wasn’t what you expected. The first flying car was created in the 1970s. Yet it didn’t look futuristic at all. Instead, it looked like any old regular car with aeroplane wings strapped on.

Even worse is the fact that the first flying car killed its inventor. Definitely not good PR for flying cars…

Yet even though it was invented 46 years ago, today we still drive with all wheels firmly on the ground. And while scientists still try to perfect the flying car, we focus on more realistic pursuits, like the driverless car.

There are many companies like Google, Ford Motor Company [NYSE:F], Mobileye NV [NYSE:MBLY] and Baidu Inc. [NASDAQ:BIDU] all trying to bring driverless cars to our roads. And the exciting part is that they’re not too far off.

Mobileye, in combination with their partners, has stated that they will be bringing driverless cars to our roads in 2021. This is an exciting opportunity. And not just for consumers.

Make no mistake, autonomous cars revolutionise the way we live our lives. Just think about all the time saved. You can do anything you wish while traveling in your autonomous car. Traffic accidents could become a thing of the past…hopefully. And a whole new vehicle renting market could eventuate.

But they will also create new opportunities and challenges for various businesses.

Your local petrol station could be one business that could rapidly change as a direct result from driverless cars.

Caltex Prepares for Driverless Cars

Recently, Caltex has been beefing up their convenience stores, according to The Age. Groceries and other retail consumables are seen as a growth leg for Caltex. But while they increase their stocks of bread and milk, driverless cars may present a unique challenge.

Imagine far less people owning cars. Instead of being owned, cars are now rented. You could easily imagine a system similar to Uber, but with one minor change — there’s no driver.

Traveling to and from work will be effortless. No need to concentrate. No need to take notice of how much fuel is in the tank. Instead you just lay back, relax, read or watch a movie.

Driverless cars will also be more efficient in their own right.

Within autonomous cars are computer systems which determine the most efficient ways to get from point A to point B. Therefore, many of these cars will be using as little fuel as possible. Some may even use no fuel at all (electric).

I believe, as driverless cars become more popular, there will be fewer trips to petrol stations.

And that’s why so many stations are now more than just places to fill up. You can fill up your car as well as your belly at almost every petrol station. But there could be even more retail opportunities that these petrol stations could employ.

Clothing shops, café’s and furniture shops could be at your nearest petrol station in the next decade. Instead of staying no more than five minutes each time you need to fill up, you might end up spending the whole day there.

Of course, this is all just speculation. No one knows exactly how petrol stations will evolve. But the one thing I’m sure of is the radical impact that driverless cars will have on other businesses. I guess we will all soon find out how revolutionary that impact will be.

Härje Ronngard,

Junior Analysts, Money Morning

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