What Will Driverless Car Technology Mean for Car Ownership?

TDS Blog 2-26-15

For the past century, owning a car has been a big part of the American Dream, along with owning a home and starting a family. But personal priorities have a way of shifting as times change, and technological advances factor into these evolving values.

More than any other roadway technology, driverless cars have the potential to change the way we view transportation and even car ownership. These are a few ways that industry experts predict driverless cars will change our driving mindset in the years ahead.

Car Ownership Today

The average American today owns a car and depends upon it as a primary means of transportation. People who live in cities are more likely to use public transportation and taxis, but there are still lots of remote and rural areas that don’t enjoy these options. Taxi rates tend to be costly in all major cities, so most middle-class workers can’t afford to hop in a cab to get everywhere they need to go. Car ownership today is associated with freedom, flexibility, and convenience.

Ownership Alternatives 

However, some experts in the driverless car industry have predicted that self-driving cars will make car-sharing and car renting more popular options. Right now, driverless cars are still in the testing phase and too expensive for the average American to consider investing in. But once this technology becomes more available and affordable to the general public, self-driving car costs and rental costs will likely decrease. In turn, drivers may begin to see car ownership as the more expensive option rather than the default one.

Ride Sharing and Waste Reduction  

Our cars spend most of their time sitting in parking spaces and garages being unused, so there is a certain amount of waste associated with car ownership. Driverless car innovators believe that once cars can drive themselves, we can cut this waste and maximize car usage with ride sharing and cooperative ownership arrangements. This way, the costs associated with buying gas, changing oil, performing maintenance, and paying for parking could be shared as well.

Impact Upon Families

Families with children often rely heavily upon car ownership because of the convenience, reliability, frequent trips, and required car seats. This reliance presents a challenge for the self-driving car industry. Driverless car companies would need to supply a percentage of their vehicles with car seats and features to accommodate young passengers within all age ranges.

Families may then have to pay a premium rate for car seat usage and deal with hassles of swapping out car seats as their children grow. But because driverless car companies would likely be held liable for accidents involving their cars, they would have good incentives to keep their cars in excellent working condition without safety concerns.

An Enduring Tradition

Despite all these advances in driverless technology, America’s love affair with the automobile isn’t expected to fade away any time soon. Car ownership and car customization will remain important to many people as a matter of tradition, convenience, or even a hobby. Working on cars and driving cars may become more of a novelty or luxury someday, but only time will tell.

So in the wake of self-driving car technology, how important is car ownership to you?


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