The auto industry is in trouble. You might have a hard time recognizing it because your commute hasn’t gotten any shorter. Road rage doesn’t happen less frequently. And new car dealerships keep popping up. Despite these external signs of success, the auto industry is facing the future crisis of a generation having no interest in driving or car culture. There are many reasons for this unexpected turn. Here are just a few:
- They are rightfully nervous about getting into an accident
- They cannot see how they could afford the high cost of car ownership
- Many in their peer group have opted out of driving
- There are more options available for getting around
There are other considerations like the environmental impact of driving versus biking or scooting or walking. They are also not interested in driving just for the sake of driving. And there is less cache in the vehicle one owns than there is in what smartphone or gaming rig one owns. These are leading indicators of troubles ahead for the auto industry. They can also read the tea leaves. Here is how autonomous cars can flip the script:
An Eco-Friendly Solution
Self-driving vehicles don’t have to be electric vehicles for any technical reasons. But make no mistake about it: the autonomous vehicle market will be an electric vehicle market. This will address two pain points at once. You will not have to rely on Tesla charging stations as the only fast-charging option for your vehicle. Tesla owners are free to do a quick charge at EVgo stations. You don’t even have to know where the nearest station is or whether you have enough juice to get there on your current level of charge. The vehicle will know that information at all times and be able to navigate to a charging station when needed. That eliminates the long walk on a dangerous highway with a gas can in hand, hoping to get your dead car back on the road.
While there is always an environmental price to pay at the front end of developing, producing, and deploying new technology, at scale, that price drops precipitously. People can feel confident that not only will their purchase cost them much less over time, it will also cost the environment much less over time. This is an environmental win for an industry that desperately needs one.
Better cars don’t make better drivers. Auto accidents happen involving the finest cars in the finest neighborhoods. The problem is behind the wheel and not under the hood. Sure, there are sometimes break failures. But that represents a minuscule percentage of why two or more cars end up tangled in a deathmatch on the open road. When we consider the statistics on accidents compiled over the years, we learn that teams are right to be afraid for their safety since their age group seems to be responsible for a disproportionate share of accidents
If you have never been in an auto accident, you certainly know someone who has. It doesn’t have to end in a fatality for it to be a devastating event. It often ends in a life-altering injury to the driver, or passenger, or occupant of another vehicle. Every pundit and futurist agrees that the accident rate can be cut almost to zero once all of the driving duties are performed by the car and not some person in the car. Lower rates of accidents are only good news for the auto industry.
Transportation as a Service
One popular vision of how autonomous vehicles will be deployed is as a service that picks up and drops off like a driverless taxi. One might also get a subscription service where they pay a fixed monthly fee for broad access to car service. It would replace car payments, fuel payments, and insurance payments. Let’s not forget parking. That will be a very attractive model for a lot of people. Road trips will become a thing once again.
The auto industry is having a moment. That moment is punctuated by the advent of autonomous vehicles that offer the possibility of more eco-friendly solutions, fewer accidents, and a service model that makes sense to a younger generation.