Despite that owning a car or cars long has been the norm in most developed countries, the belief among many transportation planners and futurists is that this will not continue. One likely scenario for urban areas is that eventually a new norm will be that people will rely on fleets of (electric, autonomous) vehicles operated by ride-hailing services.

I wrote about this recently here on Future After 50, suggesting that such a not-far-off future would save significant money over private car ownership. Many people would be able to get by without an automobile that they owned or leased. Families might be able to cut back from having two or more cars to just having one.

When I’ve heard these projected likely future scenarios before, I’ve had a difficult time believing that nearly everyone will buy into the idea of not owning their own car(s). There’s a deep-seated psychological component to owning your own vehicle. Even with a super efficient alternative urban transportation system, won’t many of us resist giving up the set of wheels parked in our driveway?

The New York Times has published an excellent magazine piece, Tesla’s Dangerous Sprint Into the Future, that suggests it will be possible and make sense for people to own even expensive electric self-driving cars in the future. (I highly recommend reading this long article to gain insight into Tesla’s vision for its future and the future of our planet.)

Especially since driverless electric cars are likely to be pricy, how’s that going to work? Well, consider that privately owned cars are estimated to sit idle at least 95% of the time. Tesla’s executives are looking ahead to the day when the owners of their cars might loan them out during times when they’re not needed for personal transportation. In other words, your expensive vehicle can be making money when you’re not driving it.

As the Times article points out, there are already vehicle sharing apps that allow you to rent out your car and earn money from it. (See Turo and Getaround.) The problem is those pesky human drivers. Would you want to privately rent your car to someone who could be a really bad driver? It’s a good guess that this is why such services haven’t gained much traction yet.

But if your private car is autonomous, it’s another matter. You can be assured that when your car is out of your sight and shuttling other people around (earning you money), it’s operating safely, since driverless cars even today in experimental form have a safer driving record than humans. You’ll have an app that you’ll use to notify the ride-hailing service that you use when your car is available for hire. It will handle everything without you having to do anything.

Perhaps it’s my age (60) and generation (baby boomer), but I’m inclined to want to hold on to owning a car rather than relying on even a brilliantly efficient ride-hailing plus mass transportation system. And as I get older, I know that I need to spend less money and find additional sources of income. I love this idea of owning a car that works for me and earns me money – and is available whenever I need it.

Further reading:
Tesla’s Dangerous Sprint Into the Future
New York Times Magazine
November 7, 2017

Waymo’s Autonomous Cars Cut Out Human Drivers in Road Tests
New York Times
November 7, 2017

When 100% of Cars Are Autonomous
New York Times Magazine
November 7, 2017

Top photo credit: Steve Outing