A Switch To Shared Self-Driving Cars Means We’d Buy Fewer Cars, Wear Them Out Faster

Image courtesy of Brian Rome

Most Americans aren’t comfortable yet with the idea of riding in an autonomous car, but at one time, horseless carriages and electricity in our homes were scary, too. Technology companies and automakers are both working to make autonomous cars happen, but wouldn’t self-piloting cars mean that we would share vehicles or pay fares? That would dramatically shrink demand for cars, hurting automakers. Right?

Maybe not. Sure, our cars last for a decade or more, but they also spend most of their time sitting around, not being driven. A constantly operating shared autonomous car would wear out faster.

Financial analysts at Deutsche Bank AG recently considered the future of automakers and the companies that supply parts to them. Even considering future advances in car technology, they still estimate that an autonomous car would be on the road for a pretty short time: maybe three years if it’s in constant operation.

That’s how they came to a really interesting conclusion: there would be about 25 million fewer cars on the road in the United States alone if people in urban areas switched to shared autonomous cars, but the number of new cars manufactured would pretty much stay the same.

“U.S. sales nonetheless increase under every scenario we’ve examined because vehicle scrappage is determined by miles driven,” they write. A car driven 30,000 miles each year will be replaced three times as often as one that’s driven 10,000 miles each year.

This depends, of course, on the assumption that people don’t use those autonomous cars as tiny buses and share rides with strangers, reducing the number of miles ridden overall.

How Sharing Cars Could Actually Boost Auto Sales [Bloomberg News]

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