I am an early adopter of technology and what it can enable, so I was pretty excited to meet Sebastian Thrun while at the JP Morgan CEO Real Estate Forum.  Sebastian was one of the founders of Google’s worst-kept-secret development lab called Google X.  He is super smart and is now out on his own working to advance the technology and business opportunities of self-driving cars.  Sebastian was so enthusiastic when it came to talking about how driverless cars will impact society, including homebuilding.  In fact, we agreed to consider a pilot program to test self-driving cars in a Del Webb community later this year. (More news on that in the future.)  Considering everything I read points to these cars becoming mainstream in just a few years, the conversation really got me thinking about the possibilities.

If the time spent commuting in a car could be truly productive, would people be willing to travel further between home and office?  If you combined the ease of Uber with the technology of an automated car, would people own fewer cars or chose not to own any?  If so, should we be reallocating space away from garages in future floorplan designs or should we be adding small parking structures into the community?

For a typical investment these days, it takes 18 to 24 months from when we acquire the land to when we have models open and then another 24 to 36 months to sellout the community.  That’s 4-5 years from start to finish, so we don’t have to look that far out on the horizon to where driverless cars could be impacting where and what homes we will be selling.

The homebuilding industry is not usually on technology’s cutting edge, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t impacted by larger trends as they roll across society.  And given the long lead times of our projects, we need to keep our eyes open for the trends inside and outside of our industry.

What technologies are you seeing that could impact our business or that we should be adopting into our homes or processes?