Thought Experiment: The end of trains in Europe

As someone fascinated by self driving cars, I keep thinking about a future where all cars are autonomous and people no longer own them. At the same time, I am working on helping customers book trains, buses, and flights for intercity transportation in Europe.

Trains are very limited in capacity, you have to build specific expensive roads for them, they have to run on specific times to transport as much people as possible, and they are very expensive (Many intercity journeys in Europe are cheaper by flights than trains, and much cheaper by carpooling using for example BlaBla Car).

In a world dominated by autonomous cars, part of the changing dynamics will include

  • Cars getting significantly cheaper, because car manufacturers won’t have to build and sell tens of models per year since people will no longer have to own them.
  • Hailing a car will get significantly cheaper as well, due to the elimination of humans, and the high utilization of the car. Currently cars are only utilized 1-2% of the time. Imagine a 50-60% utilization. That’s 6000% improvement.
  • Cars will get faster, you no longer need speed limits because of the possibilities of human errors. Networked machines will handle everything.
  • Roads: There are two theories about roads, one theory is roads will get more crowded since significantly more cars will be running and transporting people. The second theory is more people will be on the move which also means roads will be more utilized, and you don’t have the limits of train tracks.

All of this makes me think, by the time we reach this, trains will look as something from the past, something very old that you have to wait to get in it, something that needs high maintenance cost and high management cost to manage all the bottlenecks on the tracks. Something that looks very slow, and very inconvenient, in such a fast moving world.

Mercedes is the new Deutsche Bahn.

Software vs Oil

I was meeting a friend of mine from college days who is currently working as a software engineer. Someone asked him if you go back in time, would you go to the same college? He said no, I would’ve became a petroleum engineer. They make a lot of money.

The economist published the following chart highlighting the top 10 companies by market cap in 2006 vs 2016.

In just 10 years, the top 10 companies in the world shifted from being dominated by oil companies, to tech companies.

I think back in time when oil was discovered it wasn’t easy to jump on the ship, walk up the ladder, and start a big company. You rarely hear of the founders of BP, or Shell. Most of these came out of governments, sometimes out of wars, and a lot of times accompanied with lobbying or even corruption to get the business done. The opportunity was there for a lucky few.

It is not only that “software is eating the world”. Software is giving an equal opportunity for everyone to build something people want, & make a lot of money. You get to move without anyone’s permission, and the innovation is everywhere. No need to dig to find it.

Don’t worry Ahmed, you are on the right side.

Being on track

One thing that can happen very easily in the tech sector is being outdated. Things are changing faster than most of us can cope with.

I feel there are many things happened recently that I almost missed, and if talked to most of the people around me, the will probably know nothing about it. My current list inlcludes

  • Deep Learning (I understand the basics, but I don’t fully understand the capabilities and technical limits).
  • Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.
  • Quantum Computing.

While the previous leaps were the internet, the mobile, and the cloud. Those were considerably easy to digest and understand compared to the topics I mentioned which require a lot of reading/experimenting to understand what’s really going on.

I hope I can dedicate some time to understand about each and be on track. If you know any resources about any of those feel free to share with me.