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!

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 110609

From the home office along the former Berlin Wall in Germany…

#1: McAfee: Bad practice of #e20 evangelists = Declare war on the enterprise. Presents a bad msg to corporate buyers. #e2conf

#2: Frappaolo: His work finds that age has little to do with #e20 adoption. Creative thinkers span all ages. Org culture is the issue. #e2conf

#3: Yup, SharePoint 2010 is a platform: Microsoft To Offer Application Marketplace In SharePoint 2010 http://ow.ly/zYM2 via @rww #e20

#4: Google Wave product mgr. Best way to use #googlewave is for collaborative activities, not wholesale replace email. #e2conf

#5: RT @Brioneja: Google’s Wave Might Find Its Real Home Inside Company Servers http://bit.ly/2VJkxP #collaboration #software

#6: For #innovation, conflict is good. Conflict is right. Conflict works. Read @AndreaMeyer‘s post to find out why: http://ow.ly/za7v

#7: Good take @zeroinfluencer: All User Centric Design is modeled around the ego. Good software design keeps that in mind. http://bit.ly/39gim3

#8: Gov 2.0 – City of Manor Taps Citizens’ Ideas for Improvement (via Spigit blog) http://bit.ly/4A1hNc #gov20 #innovation

#9: RT @zee RT @jestei I find twitter #lists weirdly, narcissisticly fascinating; they provide a rare window into how others would define you

#10: http://twitpic.com/noz7d – Tonight’s Jack O’ Lantern is a wink emoticon 😉 My 5 yo’s choice. Future geek.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 103009

From the home office, waiting for the Great Pumpkin in the pumpkin patch…

#1: NIH grants $12mm to create a national, Facebook-like social network for scientists http://ow.ly/xtAD Goal? Find collaborators

#2: RT @jowyang Ritz Carlton’s mktg chief says hotel mgt at each property spends 1 hour reviewing online convos each am –even tweets #forbescmo

#3: The Time I was Written Up for Blogging http://ow.ly/x3ph by @tacanderson Lesson on employees and social media

#4: Skating to where the puck will be – Apple & advertising http://ow.ly/xnXJ Apple has offered to rebuild a Chicago mass transit stop?

#5: Very cool: Los Angeles adopts Google e-mail system for 30,000 city employees http://ow.ly/x3hP Cloud makes inroads #saas

#6: 84% of firms say #innovation is important to firm success. 51% of firms do not have anyone who is steering the innovation ship. #iai09inno

#7: 10 examples of minimum viable products http://ow.ly/xbi1 Cool list of minimalist approaches to engage customers & build product

#8: Stuck trying to write that next blog post? 100 Ways to Find Ideas for Your Blog Posts http://ow.ly/wA1T from the LifeSnips blog

#9: Geek alert! RT @PaulSloane: @DougCornelius RT Awesome T-Shirts for twins: http://bit.ly/14LYeI

#10: OK, figure this one out. @gaberivera created a tweet that links to itself. See for yourself: http://bit.ly/2IIkJG

Bonus just for this week…

#11: Small change to my Twitter bio…I’m now VP of Product at Spigit. Carry on…

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 102309

From the home office in Kabul, Afghanistan…

#1: Twitter’s Web Traffic Flatlines http://ow.ly/viH9 …while Facebook continues to grow.

#2: Initial take on MSFT’s Twitter integration (http://ow.ly/vLGF)…that is sweet! Now will they show tweets beyond the last 3 days?

#3: RT @danschawbel REPORT: 65.6% of CMO’s feel that social media should be done in-house http://tinyurl.com/ygdjtfb

#4: If the Enterprise 2.0 crowd wanted to share a link, my guess for the top 5 services: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Posterous, Yammer. Agree?

#5: Study – Collaborative Networks Produce Better Ideas (via Spigit blog) http://bit.ly/3xoPM5 #e20 #innovation

#6: Interesting point from #spc09 – SharePoint is a critical driver of MSFT’s future growth. #e20

#7: Two SharePoint 2010 articles – RWW http://bit.ly/1zjI49 | @olivermarks http://bit.ly/4f9en0 – paint a good picture of its #e20 initiatives

#8: Southwest Airlines is running a “test lab” of ecofriendly products on its new Green Plane http://ow.ly/w3fR

#9: RT @Cubba: @bhc3 I thought this was timely based on our conversation at Patsy’s; http://bit.ly/1WQGwH = “10 Tips for Retrosexing on FB”

#10: http://twitpic.com/m13gk – It’s pumpkin patch time! Kids have their own. #halloween

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 100909

From the home office in Oslo…

#1: I’d like to publicly state for the record that I never accept sponsorship or freebies for my blog posts…because no one ever offers any…

#2: The Nobel Peace Prize for Obama is a signal to him, a very large signal, to keep doing what he’s doing. It’s not an achievement award.

#3: Did you see @defrag‘s mashup of Gartner Hype Cycle & Moore’s Chasm? http://ow.ly/tr6d Social media/E20 in trough of visionary adoption

#4: Firms Need a System for Recognizing and Empowering Innovation Catalysts (via Spigit blog) http://bit.ly/RlMS8 #innovation #wbf09

#5: Slideshare Gets More Serious About Monetizing Their Business http://ow.ly/t79P Two options: Adshare, Leadshare

#6: Hamel: WL Gore manages T&E this way = all expenses posted online for peers to see. Outcome? No need for restrictions. #wbf09

#7: Lucas: “Never imagined people would go frame by frame in Star Wars, and tweet their friends about its [cinematic tricks]” #wbf09

#8: Pickens: I’m more powerful in Washington D.C. now because I have 1.6mm people signed up in support of my energy plan. #wbf09

#9: Lencioni: Need to be able to disagree on things. Need trust for this to work. Conflict without trust is politics. #wbf09

#10: http://twitpic.com/k68s4 – I’m at a wedding that starts in 10 minutes. My son is ring bearer.

From the home office in Oslo…

#1: I’d like to publicly state for the record that I never accept sponsorship or freebies for my blog posts…because no one ever offers any…

#2: The Nobel Peace Prize for Obama is a signal to him, a very large signal, to keep doing what he’s doing. It’s not an achievement award.

#3: Did you see @defrag‘s mashup of Gartner Hype Cycle & Moore’s Chasm? http://ow.ly/tr6d Social media/E20 in trough of visionary adoption

#4: Firms Need a System for Recognizing and Empowering Innovation Catalysts (via Spigit blog) http://bit.ly/RlMS8 #innovation #wbf09

#5: Slideshare Gets More Serious About Monetizing Their Business http://ow.ly/t79P Two options: Adshare, Leadshare

#6: Hamel: WL Gore manages T&E this way = all expenses posted online for peers to see. Outcome? No need for restrictions. #wbf09

#7: Lucas: “Never imagined people would go frame by frame in Star Wars, and tweet their friends about its [cinematic tricks]” #wbf09

#8: Pickens: I’m more powerful in Washington D.C. now because I have 1.6mm people signed up in support of my energy plan. #wbf09

#9: Lencioni: Need to be able to disagree on things. Need trust for this to work. Conflict without trust is politics. #wbf09

#10: http://twitpic.com/k68s4 – I’m at a wedding that starts in 10 minutes. My son is ring bearer.

Lego’s Innovation Won’t Stop Children’s Creativity

LEGO logoThe New York Times has a great story about Lego’s resurgence as a profitable, growing toymaker. In Beyond the Blocks, the newspaper asks: “Lego has rebuilt itself, but does it risk losing a sense of wonder?”

Lego is a universal toy for all of us, across generations. As kids, we played with canisters of those multicolored bricks. As parents, we pass along the tradition to our kids. The free form nature of Legos is part of their attraction. Build whatever you want, exercise the creativity muscles and wonder that’s so prevalent in young children.

The company, however, was running into challenges of slow market growth and poor internal operational discipline. To combat the malaise that was setting in, a new CEO came in and made two big changes. He instilled a key performance indicator (KPI) mentality and greatly expanded the product line beyond the free form blocks. It is a story of success and innovating to become a stronger company, as the New York Times notes:

But the story of Lego’s renaissance — and its current expansion into new segments like virtual reality and video games — isn’t just a toy story. It’s also a reminder of how even the best brands can lose their luster but bounce back with a change in strategy and occasionally painful adaptation.

A key point made in the story is that the theme-based Lego toys have a downside. Toy sets based on Indiana Jones, Star Wars and Toy Story rob children of the creative aspects that the traditional plain bricks. With a plain set of Legos, there are no instructions, no pre-set pictures of what the end result will be. It requires that the child think about new possibilities and dream up their own structures. The themed toys, on the other had, are more about following someone else’s directions and creativity. Indeed, here’s what psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Sinowitz says in the New York Times article:

What Lego loses is what makes it so special. When you have a less structured, less themed set, kids have the ability to start from scratch. When you have kids playing out Indiana Jones, they’re playing out Hollywood’s imagination, not their own.

I think it’s a point well-made. But I want to offer a counterpoint. It’s not from any deep research background on childhood creativity. Rather, it’s as a father of a 5 year old boy. Here is my son’s current favorite Lego creation:

Lego flying machine contraption

Lego flying machine contraption

What’s that? Ask my son, and he’ll tell you, “It’s a secret.” What did it used to be? A helicopter. A Lego helicopter that came with specific instructions for how to build it. Which we did together. But soon thereafter, he decided to make it his own thing. He can tell you all about the different parts of his magnificent flying machine. What they do, and where the people climb in and how they operate it.

What this tells me is that creativity is an intrinsic part of all of us. Sure, my son made a helicopter into a variation of something that flies, instead of turning it into a castle or bridge or something. So certainly, the theme of the toy influenced the direction of his creativity. But I actually think that’s a good thing. Give him some direction for his creativity.

Can’t wait to see what he does with the Grand Carousel.