Industry experts agree that the percentage of consumers choosing to forego vehicle ownership for mobility solutions will increase over time, but the extent of this switch, and how fast it happens, is up for debate.
A new study of 7,000 consumers from China, Europe and the U.S. from the consulting firm Accenture showed nearly half of vehicle owners would consider giving up their personal cars in favor of mobility solutions such as self-driving taxis and buses. The results varied by region though, with at least 69 percent of owners in China willing to make the switch, compared to less than 40 percent of their U.S. counterparts.
- Overall, 48 percent of vehicle owners in the U.S. Europe and China say they would consider giving up their car in favor of rideshare services, according to Accenture.
- Global revenue from mobility services will reach $1.34 trillion by 2030, the company reports.
- Experts see young urban dwellers as the most likely to choose mobility services over vehicle ownership.
When asked about the Accenture research, a spokeswoman for the National Automobile Dealers Association pointed to a study the trade group published in 2018, which indicated only 11 percent of American car owners were interested in giving up their personal vehicles to move exclusively toward ridesharing. That study did indicate that younger consumers were more amenable to the switch — 19 percent of millennial respondents would give up car ownership for ridesharing.
“We don’t see private ownership going away to any significant degree in the foreseeable future, particularly in the U.S. with its vast distances to travel,” stated Audi’s Director of Government Affairs, Brad Stertz, in an email. “But what is likely to occur is a noticeable change in mobility patterns in select cities… Gradually, this will spread to different cities, but there will be no ‘flip a switch and autonomous mobility begins’ moment.”
Toyota’s autonomous people-mover will be in operation at the next Olympic Games. (Image: Toyota)
Toyota’s mobility and advanced technology communications manager, Nathan Kokes, largely agrees with this view. “At Toyota, we take the long view,” he said. “We think it will take a long time for the technology to mature.”
The appeal of mobility solutions will depend on availability and consumers’ comfort with the technology, Kokes said. Thus, young childless people in urban areas, who already make heavy use of services such as Lyft and Uber, would have an easier time going without a personal vehicle than others. “Car ownership is still very attractive to people in rural areas, as well as those with children,” he said. “Ownership ensures they have access to transportation when they need it.”
Stertz said Audi sees new mobility options complementing, rather than displacing, existing options. Autonomous vehicles offer the opportunity to offer life-altering services, he said. “With 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day, there is a looming crisis of elderly Americans who can no longer drive, even to medical appointments,” he noted. “Disabled Americans will have new freedoms. For financially disadvantaged Americans, automated mobility offers the potential to trim per-mile mobility costs drastically.”
Autonomous solutions like GM’s Cruise are in development for the future. (Photo: GM)
Sandeep Sovani, the global director of the automotive industry for the software company ANSYS, pointed out that mobility solutions have a range of advantages. For instance, the service lets consumers avoid the hassle of maintenance, frees up residential space used for parking, and allows people to choose the vehicle that suits their immediate needs — whether it be a romantic dinner for two, a family camping trip for five, or a solo commute to work.
For these reasons, plus the increased safety and convenience autonomy promises, Sovani believes it is inevitable that consumers will largely turn away from private ownership once reliable, fully autonomous (level 5) technology is widely available. In conjunction with this, automakers will switch away from consumer sales to deal directly with businesses operating autonomous fleets. “People need mobility,” he said. “They need to go where they want, when they want. They don’t necessarily need to own a car to do that.”
Sovani predicted that this shift in the industry will also lead to consolidation. “It will be like the commercial aircraft industry, where a small handful of manufacturers serve hundreds of airlines across the world,” he said, adding that most mechanic shops and car dealers are also destined to disappear in time. “Fleet owners will have their own repair shops, and dealers will be replaced by apps. Very few individuals will buy or service a car. They’ll summon them with their phone.”
Mobility ideas include the flying car, like this one from Aeromobil in China. (Photo: Getty Images)
Honda North America spokesperson Marcos Frommer said it’s too early to predict exactly how autonomy will affect car ownership and that change is likely to be gradual. “Most consumers are keeping their cars more than 10 years,” he said. “That will have an impact on any timeline.”
Sovani agrees that change will be gradual, and believes the technology will take one or two decades to mature and gain acceptance, with a long period of overlap where personally owned (and driven) vehicles share the road with autonomous fleet vehicles. “If you want to drive a car, you’ll be able to drive a car, but you won’t have to,” he explained.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Driving enthusiasts and car collectors aren’t going away, but the vast bulk of consumers are likely to weigh owning a vehicle against mobility solutions in the years ahead. What they decide will have a huge impact on the multi-trillion dollar automotive industry, as well as day-to-day life across the world.