Automotive giants like Daimler, GM and Toyota have seen the writing on the wall and are positioning themselves to capitalise on the changing market by investing in taxi companies and hail-and-ride companies like Uber, Chauffeur Privee, Lyft, ZipCar, Careem and others. The emphasis now is not so much on Ownership but Usership. So the market is still there but it’s a different market and they are gearing up for that. Prior to the millennium, owning your first car was a big deal; however, with the giant strides made in information technology in the new millennium what’s important is communication and connectivity. You could argue that the silicon chip is the biggest advance in human knowledge since the invention of the printing press because it has made massive amounts of information available at great speed to the greatest number of people.
This means that the autonomous driverless car is now a viable possibility; although principally initiated by the IT sector the automotive giants like Daimler et al have entered the area and the commercial imperative will drive it: give the people what they want. It is estimated that within fifteen years only 20% of Americans will own cars; of course, the same amount of people, or more, will still need to move around so, while ownership may diminish, Usership will increase. The manufacturers will still be producing at least the same amount of cars for the same market but used in a different way.
The current generation of car users are much more aware of the damage that carbon fuel does to the environment and they care more, so there has been a move to development of electric vehicles, which were once considered a niche market, by the major car manufacturers. Again, commercial considerations come into play.
The automotive market is in a state of flux currently: the communications companies are developing systems for monitoring and controlling vehicles, both driver and driverless, while the automotive companies are developing driverless and electric vehicles. Obviously, significant market demand has been identified for this so it is no longer merely experimentation. In the foreseeable future there will be a number of mergers or takeovers between automotive and communications companies which will produce an exponential growth in development, and I can imagine a time when carbon fuelled, privately owned vehicles will become a rarity and prohibitively expensive: rather like the Queen’s gold coach.
Words by Sean Myers