Automated Cars: Sooner vs. Later?

Technology expert predicts the when, how and why of disruption

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. -- In probably the most ominous prediction of the CSP Outlook Leadership conference, held Aug. 19-22 in California, a technology expert said the seismic disruption to the gas-and-convenience-retail channel that many believe will come from automated vehicles will likely hit the fuel industry as soon as four to seven years from now.

Basing his forecast on converging technological advances, the swift emergence of ride-sharing and the progress of current vehicle tests in Arizona with live passengers, Gunter Pfau, founder and CEO of Stuzo, a Philadelphia-based digital-product innovation firm, said the paradigm that may follow would potentially cut traditional convenience stores and gas stations out of the supply chain, with most autonomous vehicles being electric and potentially being charged at fleet-based fueling hubs.

Pfau said a “ramp up” with automakers and manufacturers will happen by 2022-2023 with “significant shifts” happening in the years afterward. “By 2030, it’s game over,” he said.

  • Click here to view Stuzo's convenience store of 2025.

Multiple technological advances, such as greater computer-processing power, falling costs and artificial intelligence (AI) are converging to fuel the rise of automated vehicles, Pfau said, with most of them being electric due to inherent cost and fueling efficiencies.

Eventually, subscribing to a car service will become cheaper than owning a car, he said, at which time, the decimation of the traditional transportation system based on personal car ownership will change drastically.

“Computers don’t drink or text while driving,” Pfau said. “Computers will do a better job getting us from point A to point B.”

The CSPOutlook Leadership conference is being held Aug. 19-22 at the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. Next year’s Outlook Leadership conference will be held Aug. 11-14, 2019 at the Omni Grove Park Inn, Asheville, N.C.

Photograph of Gunter Pfau and Jackson Lewis by W. Scott Mitchell

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