Fast-forward 20 years. Driverless cars coast around every street in the country without a human driver behind the wheel. They’ve reached market saturation — the technology is as commonplace as cruise control is today.
The rise of self-driving cars leads to a host of questions, of course, but for the moment let’s focus on just one: Will you still be able own a car? Would you even want to? I mean, why buy when you can take an autonomous pod everywhere for far less?
Thing is, the answer to that question isn’t a simple yes or no. But finding the answer is rooted in trends happening right now.
Companies like Lyft have partnered with General Motors to incentivize people out of car ownership with sweetheart rental deals, which may actually work. On the flip side, high-end carmakers — at least the ones I’ve spoken to — don’t see car sharing as a part of their future business.
When looking at the picture of car ownership in the driverless era, several scenarios become apparent.They range from outright ownership to pay-per-ride transportation (AKA “mobility as a service”) with a few options in between. With that in mind, let’s start at the top and work our way down.
1. Full ownership
Today, aside from a few current car-sharing programs, the vast majority of cars are used only by their owners, and not shared, at least not in a structured way. Even after the widespread implementation of driverless tech, the direct-sales business for top-end brands like Bentley, Lamborghini and Aston Martin won’t change. Right now, the average car sits unused 94% of its life. Likely, a Bentley sits idle even more than that — probably nearing the 99% mark, as the average Bentley buyer owns around nine other vehicles in addition.
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