How self-driving vehicles can fix the San Francisco housing crunch

In the San Francisco Bay Area, home prices have seen significant appreciation the last few years:

Source: Paragon Real Estate Group

Source: Paragon Real Estate Group

In the Bay Area, skyrocketing home prices and rents have driven people out of the area. They look for homes in further-out suburbs and exurbs, extending their commutes to work. And the Bay Area leads the nation in the percentage of people who are mega-commuters (pdf). If you’re raising a family, you accept that long commutes (e.g. hour or more) are the price you pay to have a home for your children.

It’s frankly worrying the way prices continue to rise and people are being pushed out further and further from the employment centers of the Bay Area. Similar types of scenarios are playing out in New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, etc. It causes a rising level of stress for working parents, trying to excel both at work and at raising their children.

The general response has been a call for the creation of more affordable housing. Which is a very desirable objective, and needs to be pursued. There is no other near-term relief.

But project yourself forward a few decades. A time when the roads will be dominated by self-driving vehicles. Many benefits to individuals and society will open up. One valuable outcome we will see is this:

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Commute time becomes regular work time

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Once you’re freed from having to drive, having to pay attention to the road, you’re afforded new options. Participate in conference calls. Respond to emails. Write documents. Prepare presentations. Run the numbers. Access files in the corporate drive. Engage in conversations. Read reports. Update project plans. Etcetera, etcetera, etc…

As Bay Area companies compete for workers, I expect that they will recognize the challenge of the housing market. Rather than continue to pay escalating salaries so people can afford to live in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Palo Alto, etc., companies will try a different approach. Hire people who live much further out.

See the map below, outlining Northern California median home prices:

Northern California regional home prices

Let’s take Roseville, CA as an example. Roseville is 106 miles away from San Francisco, with at least a two-hour commute. And look at the home price difference. You can buy a typical home in Roseville for nearly $700,000 less than what it costs in San Francisco. Per Chase Bank’s mortgage calculator, one can afford a house in Roseville with $100,000 in household income. In San Francisco, you need a household income of $266,400.

Look at that from a Bay Area employer’s perspective. You can spend a lot less on workers who live further out. Of course, that comes at a cost in terms of worker productivity. Or does it?

Let’s assume companies get wise to the benefits of hiring people who live far away from the office. You can imagine a worker’s daily schedule looking something like this.

Extreme commuters daily schedule

Such a schedule would provide for:

  • Productive work time during expected work hours
  • In-person face time at the office
  • Parenting time
  • More money in the employee’s bank account
  • Less money spent on compensation by employers

Self-driving cars are really the enabling technology for this schedule. We can look at the much discussed Google Buses for some insight. On Quora, Google employee Mary Xu says she uses the bus commute to Mountain View as productive work time. Which validates the possibilities here. However, in a discussion forum about Google Buses, user gnomatic notes that the shared resource of the bus does restrict worker productivity. Wifi can be overtaxed, and phone calls are considered bad etiquette. Which means that individual vehicles are better for realizing the worker productivity.

Self-driving vehicles will radically change the game for us in the decades ahead, a point made also by Reid Hoffman in a terrific post. I fully expect the nature of where we live and work to be altered by autonomous vehicles.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 051410

From the home office in outer space, where I’m blogging from the space shuttle Atlantis’s final mission

#1: RT @georgedearing Pilot advertisers happy with initial results from Twitter’s new ad program // http://bit.ly/twittermarketers // #fb [ADWEEK]

#2: The debate about pilot projects in social business http://bit.ly/c3EViV by @leebryant #e20

#3: RT @amyjokim How to build a sustainable community http://bit.ly/bJtkes (practical tips for hands-on community management)

#4: Applies to enterprises as well: RT @sidburgess How Cul-de-Sacs Are Killing Your Community http://bit.ly/cGg6yi #e20

#5: Does Reputation Ranking Make a Difference in Idea Management? (via Spigit blog) http://bit.ly/cfPWa0 #innovation #e20 #reputation

#6: Customer Suggestions: When to Listen, When to Ignore >> Pragmatic Marketing #innovation http://post.ly/fMoz

#7: RT @jorgebarba Game-based marketing takes off from frequent flyer programs to social media | VentureBeat http://ff.im/-k2bW1

#8: Noticing an uptick in Foursquare friend requests lately.

#9: Would love a laptop like this: Future Designer laptop – ROLLTOP http://bit.ly/dkypIY

#10: My kindergarten son made this “spy” laptop computer today – no Flash support though… http://twitpic.com/1nk9pw

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 043010

From the home office on the Gulf Coast, where I just have to note that you never hear about “sunshine spills” or “wind slicks”.

#1: RT @mattgaston If foursquare gets it right, they could go big. Very big! NYTimes: Linking Customer Loyalty With Social Networking http://nyti.ms/cfzclt

#2: RT @TechCrunch The Huffington Post Starts To Give Out Badges To Readers http://tcrn.ch/bQopLB > Just getting started…

#3: WSJ has its own Foursquare badges http://bit.ly/a6EjmX by @mathewi > WSJ also provides news items for locations

#4: RT @tacanderson Cool webcast today by HP: An economist’s view of crowdsourcing http://j.mp/czYrSY

#5: Getting the Most from Your Crowdsourcing Initiative (via Spigit blog) http://bit.ly/cugk0z #innovation

#6: RT @jacobm spigit announces its innovation summit, should be a great one http://bit.ly/csHfNE cc @bhc3

#7: 42: Why innovation is a hard sell http://bit.ly/b83pWs by @deb_lavoy > #Innovation is problem-solving, not ideation

#8: RT @Renee_Innosight Yes! RT @MARTYneumeier: The secret to collaboration is finding a rhythm that alternates between team creativity and individual creativity.

#9: NBC’s Parenthood cracks me up. Love it. Until it inevitably jumps the shark somewhere along the line with a “very special” Parenthood.

#10: About to start Stuart Hall Miller’s Mile with my son — at Warming Hut Park Store & Cafe http://gowal.la/c/E4ah

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 042310

From the home office in some Redwood City bar, where I’m using my pick-up line on all the single ladies, “Did you happen to find my Congressional Medal of Honor around here? Or my iPhone 4G?”

#1: RT @TechCrunch Foursquare Becomes More Business-Friendly http://tcrn.ch/b45AJY > Biz owners can claim their businesses

#2: RT @jowyang Heard that foursquare us charging brands $50,000 for a custom branded badge. Good deal or bad? Think it through.

#3: RT @courtenaybird GOOD READ: It’s Time For An Open Database Of Places http://ow.ly/1A4HL (via @erickschonfeld)

#4: RT @briansolis The State and Future of Twitter 2010: Part Two http://bit.ly/aAV0r9

#5: “Sucks Less” Features http://bit.ly/an6s50 > funny product management perspective from my b-school classmate @trochte

#6: RT @amcafee New blog post up. “Drop the Pilot” advocates AGAINST small-scale #E20 pilot projects: http://bit.ly/aKD3WF

#7: This @gapingvoid cartoon well-describes the creative process, incl writing. http://bit.ly/9LlVIN Sometimes you got it, sometimes you don’t.

#8: Had to check to make sure this wasn’t dated April 1. It’s for real: “Vacationing a human right, EU chief says” http://bit.ly/bMYAH0

#9: I hear stories about Americans’ deep discontent with government, and I’m just not one of them. We’re working our way out of a deep well.

#10: Hilarious site that any parent of young kids can appreciate: www.shitmykidsruined.com (h/t @rochelle)

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 012910

From the home office at the annual retreat of Republican members of the House of Representatives in Baltimore, where I’m taking questions on my blog care plan…

#1: RT @cbneese My coworker: “Hey everyone I got the iPad, only I got the smaller, more portable version, with internet, a camera, and a phone.”

#2: RT @dhinchcliffe The PC officially died today: http://bit.ly/aATwBS Nick Carr probably does the best sum-up of the week.

#3: RT@ jbrewer RT @fchimero: Headline: “Tech nerds everywhere pissed Apple made a product for someone other than them.”

#4: Cisco’s I-Prize – the Next Wave of Open Innovation (via Spigit blog) http://bit.ly/bKq9vI #innovation #openinnovation

#5: RT @IdeaSandbox Don’t Demolish Your Own Innovation http://bit.ly/9hTRiw

#6: Nice post on HuffPo by @craignewmark about City of Manor’s citizen innovation site http://bit.ly/c4JOYQ (using Spigit) #gov20 #innovation

#7: Sketch, sketch, sketch http://bit.ly/djKsgE by @jbrewer “The end goal of the drawing process is what you learn while sketching” #innovation

#8: “I hate cynicism – it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere.” Conan O’Brien http://bit.ly/66vppK > amen

#9: Nice response to the Westboro Baptist Church protest http://bit.ly/dteuTf > @meganphelps you did have donuts there, didn’t you?

#10: Stars Wars “6-pack” arrived today in the mail. Prequel Trilogy & the Original Trilogy. Got to get my 5 y.o. son up to speed. #lifelessons

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 012210

From the home office in Massachusetts, where I’m saying, “Kennedy who?”

#1: the six types of ideas http://bit.ly/6pKGGZ #innovation

#2: RT @InfoWeekSMB Spigit Introduces ‘Idea Management’ for SMBs http://bit.ly/6CGhWO

#3: RT @johnt Systems that eliminate failure, eliminate innovation by @snowded http://icio.us/xoupma

#4: This is really cool: @tyler_thompson decided to redesign airline boarding passes: http://bit.ly/75OWtU What do you think?

#5: RT @markfidelman My new Post: Hutch Carpenter on the Innovation X Factor http://tinyurl.com/y9hfvrq

#6: RT @stu: New Blog Post: Celebrating the Web at 20 http://bit.ly/6Vtjo5 incl interviews w/ @bhc3 @louisgray #emc #innovation

#7: @pgkiran Good to know Kiran! Got no beef with Conan, he’s getting a raw deal. But I don’t blame it on Leno.

#8: RT @MarkDykeman: I hereby coin the term “nanocause”. It’s a thing that you care about for no more than 15 min. before you get bored.

#9: Seventh Generation (cleaning products) ad on TV just referenced the vaunted “5-second rule” for food on the floor. #lifelessons

#10: There truly are times a parent can look at his lovely little children, and think: “savages”.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 011510

From the home office at 11:35 pm weeknights, where I’ll be sitting in the Tonight Show chair after the Winter Olympics…

#1: Defining Social Business http://bit.ly/6pfbpy by @stoweboyd #e20

#2: RT @time Foursquare’s Twist on Facebook: A Reward for Checking In – TIME http://tinyurl.com/yce6jld

#3: One thing we’ll see more in next 20 years: online reputations. Not just businesses, but people. Formalized and applied to web experience.

#4: Technology Review: How Google Ranks Tweets #reputation http://post.ly/IRl1

#5: RT @HelenWalters “Innovation is killed with the two deadliest words in business: Prove it.” @rotmanschool‘s Roger Martin: http://bit.ly/862a3t

#6: RT @VenessaMiemis What is Design Thinking, Really? http://bit.ly/6fpmOZ #metathink #designthinking #innovation > Detailed post

#7: Reading ‘Design Driven Innovation’ by Verganti. Quote: “Design should anticipate a need, proposing a vision.” #innovation

#8: RT @GeorgeDearing Best Headline Ever. [ryankuder’s posterous] http://ff.im/-eaux4 > Funny WaPo headline writers #starwars

#9: This wasn’t too predictable, eh? “What Boyfriends and Girlfriends Search for on Google” http://bit.ly/7orLZv

#10: Ethics of test preparations–for kindergarten http://bit.ly/6TG7Co > Man, I missed out on this for my 5 1/2 son!

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