The sharing economy is a phrase that has started to buzz around. It essentially refers to the move towards the practice of renting or sharing rather than ownership. For example, Freecycle, shared offices such as WeWork and even crowdfunding platforms can all be included in this. The movement has also been dubbed ‘the Airbnb generation’. It is the sharing economy that is going to be the driving force (lol) of self-driving cars…or so we are being told.
I have talked about driverless cars briefly here before, but I read a really interesting article on the Wall Street Journal during my daily scrolling that I found very interesting and therefore wanted to discuss/share.
Before we get into it, can we all just think about how sweet a proper system of driverless cars would be? Very few accidents, sleeping in the car on the way to work, NEVER GETTING LOST (i.e. a problem for me every day). But the practicalities of it go much further beyond this.
This article in the Wall Street Journal outlines some of these practicalities. It basically points out that for 95% of a car’s life, it just sits there. It waits for us to finish work, or waits for us while we sleep. This is where driverless technology and the sharing economy collide. If you only need a car for 5% of its time, then you can share it with 20 other people. Essentially, the end of car ownership for the masses has been predicted.
This also means that you can get the car you need for the occasion and need state. Just one of you going to work? Smart Car. Needing to transport Ikea furniture? Land Rover. Family trip? Volvo. The flexibility of this idea plays into how we live our lives today: getting personalized service, when we need it.
This also stands to reason that there will be huge efficiency gains. No traffic (less cars, better road control) and fuel efficiency gains should be huge – particularly considering car companies plan on driverless cars being cleaner vehicles. Of course, one of the biggest appeals of this system is cost. You only pay for what you use – that 5% – rather than 100%.
“Beyond the practical benefits, autonomous cars could contribute $1.3 trillion in annual savings to the U.S. economy alone. Global savings? Somewhere in the neighborhood of $5.6 trillion.” – Ravi Shanker, a Morgan Stanley analyst covering the U.S. auto business to the WSJ.
Although this will obviously spell declining sales in cars, the industry is already looking forward to this and how they can be players in the movement. Don’t forget, driverless cars means more people using cars: children, the elderly, the disabled, the blind, banned drivers.
“The benefits for these groups would include independence, reduction in social isolation, and access to essential services.” – WSJ
Obviously the road to driverless cars has been a long one. Google’s been at it for a while, as have other major car manufacturers. Nissan are aiming to get a full driverless cars on the road by 2020, with a ‘highway assist’ car coming in 2016 (so soon!). So if you’re thinking about buying a new car in the next 5 years, I’d hold off: you might be buying into a dud investment.