The automotive industry could change more in the next five years than it did in the last 50.
Think about the last five decades. We’ve seen cars get bigger, faster, safer, and more fuel efficient, but we haven’t seen any radical changes in the way cars are built, marketed, sold, or driven. Our car culture is built on a fossil-fueled desire for personal transportation and the freedom to go wherever we please whenever we choose.
Things are changing, though. Ride-sharing programs are gaining in popularity and cars that can drive themselves don’t seem to be very far behind.
Here’s one of the surest signs of coming change: General Motors just placed a $500 million bet that ride sharing is the wave of the future.
Remember when on-demand service debuted in the television industry? Suddenly anyone could push a few buttons and watch any show, regardless of time or date. Something similar could happen in the auto industry.
GM has invested a half billion dollars into ride-sharing company Lyft, which will allow the companies to combine GM’s self-driving car technology with Lyft’s ride sharing service.
The partnership will tap into GM’s work on driverless cars and Lyft’s software that matches drivers and passengers and calculates routes, to create a network of cars that would operate themselves and be available on demand.
Need to go to the grocery store? Simply pull open an app, request a car, and one will show up (sans driver) to take you there.
There’s no timeline on when such technology might make it to market, but it’s a pretty clear indication that the era of car-ownership could be reaching its end.
Ford and Google have also entered in a partnership. The Detroit Bureau says,
The expansive alliance will provide Ford access to Google’s cutting-edge autonomous vehicle technology, but several sources involved in the program told TheDetroitBureau.com that the deal will go well beyond self-driving cars and explore ways in which connected car technology can create alternative mobility solutions, a pet project of Ford CEO Mark Fields.
The autonomous car craze may have reached the point of being unstoppable.
How, though, will such technology reduce traffic congestion? Even with ride-sharing, the same number of people still need to go to the same number of places. Rather then leaving a car in a parking garage, cars will simply increase their duty cycles to haul more people. The number of vehicles on the road will not decrease.
Plus, autonomous cars currently have a problematic flaw that results in accidents: They can’t react with human-like responses when in tricky situations. That’s leading to a debate on whether or not to program cars with the ability to commit traffic infractions to stay out of trouble.
There’s a long way to go before self-driving cars replace human-piloted vehicles, but it’s clear that the future of mobility includes a blurred line between the automotive and technology industries.
Would you give up your car to use autonomous ride-sharing cars?