Railroads or Transportation; Transportation or Logistics?

An old adage suggests railroad companies missed their chance to enter other big and growing markets because they defined their business as “railroads” instead of “transportation.”

One might surmise that present thinking about the impact of autonomous vehicles could represent a similar opportunity to redefine present businesses, or to miss a big growth opportunity.
In a recent survey of 455 U.S.-based companies across nine verticals, ABI Research found 30 percent  of transportation industry respondents plan to introduce robotics into their business operations within the next year, with another 22 percent actively assessing the technology.

Still, 44 percent  of respondents are not familiar with autonomous vehicle technology for transport. ABI also says there is a a resistance to share data with potential partners who also are competitors.

Only two percent of respondents highly rank sharing operational data with peers and only 14 percent see data sharing  with key partners as being of high importance.

Some 34 percent of respondents favor “freight as a service,” but only two percent of respondents highly anticipate that it will grow their customer bases. Most of the currently-envisoned innovations have to do with improving current operations (vehicle tracking, for example).

Only four percent of respondents rank navigation and guidance applications as a priority.

“Transportation providers may view intelligent transportation technologies as solutions to evolve their existing transportation operations versus opportunities for developing new revenue streams and business models,” says Susan Beardslee, Senior Analyst at ABI Research.

Perhaps we should not be too surprised by the findings. Rare is the executive with profit-and-loss responsibilities who instinctively looks to future opportunities and innovation, when the existing business is where rewards lie.

You might remember we have seen this before. You might argue FedEx saw something other than "transportation" as the foundation of its business model; something more like logistics than transpotation.
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