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Will driverless cars change the way we build social housing?


My blog today both launches our new Digital Health Check service and draws on some of the highlights from "The future social housing provider" report published by Flagship Group last month, a link to which is included below this blog post.

The challenge for housing associations ​currently is to understand how best to benefit from technological change and where to look for opportunities. The spectrum of innovation is very broad and association boards and officers have limited time and, often, expertise to capitalise on these. These were the conclusions of the Flagship report and reflect our own experience. We find that a great many of those that have started their digital journey to a new, more effective business model have faltered, not achieving the objectives anticipated.

3C's Digital Health Check service has been designed to support organisations that are either planning their journey or have already started, but are not achieving the outcomes forecasted. The service draws on the expertise we have gained from working with a number of the sector's pioneers in online services and digital business transformation. Subsequently, it will help you overcome challenges; providing advice and guidance as to how to ensure your strategic ambition is achieved, maximising the opportunity available to you. This 4-day programme has a fixed price of £2,990 and we normally find it is completely self-funding.

The Flagship report stresses the importance of digital business transformation. It reaffirms that regional and specialist housing associations will still flourish as long as they manage their costs extremely carefully, maintain a clear focus, and continue to emphasise management quality and responsiveness. There will be a far greater dependence on technology and they will be expected to provide 24/7 services and communication with tenants at the same time as cutting costs. This means management must be light on its feet and highly responsive; which the report suggests is something of a culture shift for a sector that has historically been somewhat conservative and paternalistic.

For those of you interested in future predictions, the report offers a fascinating view as to how artificial intelligence (AI) applications could change the way housing associations work. Top of the list was self-driving cars. The report states that, at the moment, self-driving cars are the the most developed example of AI and offer the clearest possibilities. Self-driving transport could improve connectivity in outlying developments, and improve accessibility for mobility-challenged people in urban areas. Individual car use could be discouraged or prohibited in both existing and new developments in favour of a much smaller fleet of self-driving cars that would serve the residents. This would allow repurposing of car-parking space in existing schemes. Ground-floor areas could be landscaped and turned into play areas, exercise parks or allotments, while underground car parking could be converted into generous on-site storage units for each flat, or working/commercial space if daylight is sufficient. 

As incredible as it all seems, such forecasts could become a reality in a matter of years. I attended a presentation in October where Jaguar Land Rover stated that they were transforming their business model from 'selling cars' to 'selling miles'. Instead of being part of the $80 billion automotive sector, they want a share in the anticipated $10 trillion autonomous vehicle sector and it's predictions such as those in the Flagship report that mean that they just can't ignore it. Indeed, many are predicting that a largely unheard of car manufacturer, Waymo, owned by Alphabet (Google) will be the largest vehicle manufacturer by 2050. Incredible perhaps, but then who had heard of Alphabet, the World's second largest company, a few years ago? 

... and we think we have transformation challenges in the social housing sector! 

Please find a link to the Flagship Group report, "The future social housing provider", here.