Would We Even Need to Own Self-Driving Cars?

tags: self-driving cars

The impact of self-driving cars will ripple through several different industries. It may be a huge step in the idea of not owning a car at all.

The two biggest problems with public transportation are:

  1. It might not run on your schedule.
  2. You have the share your space with other people.

We don’t like either of these things, so we own cars so we can (1) control our schedule, and (2) control our space.

But if we could summon a self-driving car on-demand, and travel in our own car, then why would we need to own it? A fleet of self-driving cars would be like an autonomous swarm of “public transportation bubbles.”

Consider this from an LA Times article: In a self-driving future, we may not even want to own cars

For a century, cars have been symbols of freedom and status. Passengers of the future may well view vehicles as just another form of public transportation, to be purchased by the trip or in a subscription.

Note the two words there:

  1. “freedom”; on our own schedule
  2. “status”; insulated from other people

Solve those two problems, and a big differentiator between private cars and public transportation goes away.

The question then becomes, when people don’t need or want to buy their own cars anymore, what happens to those industries? You might say, “well, they’ll still need to build self-driving cars.” Sure, but they’ll build drastically less of them.

My car spends about 30 minutes a day in motion, So, if I was to switch to a self-driving option, I’d only need it for 1/48th of a day, and it can serve other people for the other 47/48ths of the day. Now, clearly, cars would be in greater demand during certain windows, but it’s pretty easy to envision one self-driving car handling the workload of 10 privately-owned cars (think of the benefit to parking dynamics…)

When this shift happens, massive industries will start to contract. That won’t be pretty.

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