Recently I have been thinking about what is to become of private car ownership in this country and others. It seems to me that this major expense, for most people, will go the way of the dodo. The major reason for this will be economies of scale as it relates to autonomous cars that some companies are working on. Most people will see this as a major problem and resist, but mark my word, it is on its way. It will make our roads safer and more economical with far less pollution.
I agree that this seems like a difficult proposition at first, but think about services like Uber. Today Uber makes it relatively painless to get a reliable and comfortable ride in several cities around the world. This has pissed off quite a few cab companies, but it has not slowed the companies progress to this point. Now imagine that instead of a drive on the car you just order from Uber, but an autonomous car showing up to shuttle you to your next appointment. The system would automatically plot the most efficient way to get to that location based on traffic and your arrival time.
In this world you would not have to worry about parking your car since it would be off to service the next customer. Need to stop and get gas? Nope the service would automatically take care of that for you. How about ongoing maintenance? Already done by the company or local government that was providing the car. Texting and driving would be a thing of the past as you could login and work while the car did all the work.
I fully admit that there would be some planning challenges for capacity and such and that most people would be scared of giving up private property in a country that values cars almost more than any other. However, the benefits in economic stability, air quality and safety would out way these in the long run.
However, this does not solve all the problems that one uses a car for. What about weekend travel, trips and such. I think that people might still have some type of personal car in rural areas of the country to perform weekend activities, but those that live close to a city will still use the car services that are provided. So that leaves travel.
Long weekend and “road trips” would likely have to be handled in a different way. You might take a large bus or some other type of long range transportation to those places that we would drive today. However, you might also just use a service that provides one car for the whole weekend. That would be an expense proposition to be sure, but far less than what we are spending today on keeping cars up that spend the majority of the time parked.
Look, I know this is a stretch at the moment. I also know that I am going to get comments blasting me for not loving cars. I know I will also get the “commie” type comments as well. I never said I was a huge fan of this solution, but I do feel very strongly that this is coming faster than we can imagine. With companies like google and the like working on it I personally feel we are less than 10 years away before these companies start to emerge with the technology to allow cars to be completely autonomous. We live in exciting and scary times.