Here’s a scenario that might be difficult to imagine. You’re driving to work, stuck in traffic. You have a lot of work to do, but can’t get anything done. By the time you get to the office, the conference room is full, and there’s nowhere for your team to meet to have a video chat with the engineering department across the country. You’re barely out of the car and end up huddled around someone’s cubicle. What’s that? It isn’t very hard to imagine? That’s because it happens to people every day. The average American spends 42 hours a year stuck in traffic, wasting time.
It doesn’t actually have to be this way, and pretty soon, it won’t. The rise of self-driving cars means that your car can become an extension of the office, where you and your team can get stuff done, liaise with anyone from anywhere, and turn the unproductivity of sitting in a car into something that eases the rest of your day.
Understanding the Importance of Huddle Rooms
For decades, offices were pretty standard: a warren of cubicles ringed by a bunch of private offices, with a conference room somewhere, shiny and chrome. Now, of course, most businesses have forsaken the cubicles for open floor plans. Some places, like Citigroup, claiming it cost them $10 million a year, have even done away entirely with assigned seating. So where do you have your meeting? Good luck booking that one large conference room.
That’s why some companies have begun to embrace huddle rooms. Huddle rooms are smaller conference areas, and they’re hooked up with the latest in teleconferencing equipment, as well as AV tech, designed for a world in which many meetings occur virtually. They’re for those impromptu meetings, when you look over at Gary and say, “Gary, we have a problem–we have to reconfigure the settings before the rollout.” And Gary will nod, and get everyone ready for a meeting in the huddle room, including those working from home. Gary’s good like that. But what happens if half your team is on the highway going to meet investors? What happens if they have to know about the settings?
How Self-Driving Cars Can Become the New Mobile Office
Self-driving cars are coming. The newer Tesla models already have self-driving features, and autonomy is becoming a more prominent feature every generation, with cars featuring automatic lane adjustments, controlled parking, and self-applying brakes. By 2020, or thereabouts, autonomy will start becoming more prominent, and over the next 10-15 years it will take over what we know as driving. These self-driving cars are going to use less fuel, minimize waste–and actually maximize your productivity.
Let’s imagine a different scenario. You’re in your car with some of your team, going to a meeting with investors. Suddenly, you get a call from Gary, saying that there is a problem with the settings. But you’re not about to panic. You swivel around in your car seat, and face the members of your team. You’ve got a table, so the four of you quickly can huddle up while you wait for the meeting.
When the call comes, the video conferencing system in the dashboard captures you all–those in transit, those at home, and those in the office. You go through what needs to be done, and make it to the meeting fully prepared and ready to close the deal. The time spent in traffic wasn’t wasted at all.
But turning around in a chair isn’t the only way the self-driving car will become a mobile office. Here are some features that could make your car the most productive place in your life:
- Enhanced heads-up display. The heads-up display (HUD) is a fairly new feature in which data is displayed on the windshield so that the driver doesn’t have to look down to see how fast she is going or how much gas she has. It also provides directions, and can tell you if something is wrong with the car. Here’s the thing though: a self-driving car won’t need any of that. That doesn’t mean the technology is obsolete. The dashboard is already being envisioned as a place not for information about the car, but about your life–music, work, etc. So why not the windshield, if you don’t need to see out of it? Instead of looking at the irritating bumper sticker in front of you, look at the screen that projects your spreadsheets and shared docs, along with your video conference in the corner. With a touch, you’ll be able to move the screens around. You won’t be wed to your laptop, phone, or tablet. The entire car is your mobile device. Which brings us to the need for WiFi.
- WiFi hotspot. By definition, the driverless car is going to be WiFi-enabled. It will receive and transmit signals to the cloud, and communicate with other cars and the infrastructure (such as being told a light is turning red). This means you and your team will be able to plug in and glom off the existing service. Even before you have the enhanced HUD, you’ll be able to work from your car.
- Augmented Reality. Ok, you might not absolutely need augmented reality for work. But imagine talking to a client through a windshield teleconference screen, with the relevant information about them and your project displayed next to their smiling faces. Augmented reality will be possible nearly anywhere, but in a car you can harness it to make your workday smoother and easier.
- Voice-Activated “Echo-like” system. The Amazon Echo is one of the more popular devices of the last few years–so popular that Google is releasing their own (the “Chirp”). Soon, these will be in your car, working with your other devices. “Pull up the Johnson file,” you’ll say, “and also play some Jefferson Airplane.” You have a taste for the classics, and it’s your car. It’s also a 360-degree mobile device, voice-activated and screen-surrounded. It’s like living in a moving office.
Maybe we’re not all working out of our cars yet, but the definition of the office is changing, and a smart business needs the technology to change with it. If you have the right teleconferencing equipment in the office, you’ll be able to talk to anyone, anywhere, at any time. And a business needs it: we aren’t in the days where everyone was in the office all day, huddled around mahogany. And we’re past the day when “Well, the person I needed to talk to wasn’t around” was an excuse for not communicating with that person. Adapting to this present means higher profits, a more relaxed day, and happier workers. And, as we all know, a happy Gary is good for everyone.
Image source: Flickr CC user Smoothgroover22