Recently I had my first Apple Store app scan-and-pay experience. Apparently it is now possible to walk into an Apple store, find the product you want, scan the barcode with your iPhone and Apple Store app, charge the item to your iTunes account, and walk out with your receipt being emailed to you – all without having to talk to a single person. Is people-free shopping the way of the future?
Given the proliferation of transit apps, the travel demand management (TDM) world has been doing some soul-searching lately – every major public transportation system now has a real-time bus and subway tracking app; Bikeshare systems across North America use Spotcycle to locate available Bikeshare bikes; car share companies like Zipcar and car2go have apps; and even taxi companies are getting into the mix with apps that allow you to order a luxury taxi and rate your driver. With all these apps that tell you what your travel options are, will TDM practitioners such as myself, who currently do this for a living, have jobs five or more years down the road?
I say yes, and I say that because I think that all the technology in the world does not actually change people’s behavior or make them give up “old fashioned” skills. Just because we all have microwaves doesn’t mean people have given up cooking. Technology has allowed amazing advances in the world of health care and medicine, but would you trust your open heart surgery to a machine alone, or would you still want a doctor to direct the surgery, and for medical staff to guide you along the procedural ways? Besides, just having the technology doesn’t mean you necessarily know what to do with it – when I purchased my iPhone, I needed friends and coworkers to explain things to me (no, I did not rely on Siri). And I still need someone to help me when something goes wrong with my computer.
Besides, if an Apple salesperson had not told me about the app and explained it to me, I would have never known it existed. So our jobs in the future will be to make sure people know about the different apps they can use, and how to use them, as well as how to use the different modes available to them. It’s slightly different, but we are still focusing on the same thing – helping people.