In the days before social media there was cruising. For those of you in a younger generation, cruising was packing as many of your friends into a car as possible and driving in endless circles around downtown. Cruising with someone was as pretty much the same as posting a relationship status change online. Yes, that’s how we entertained ourselves and kept up on the latest gossip and that explains why your grandparents are weird.
Cruising was also a part of the American car culture, just like drive-in movies, drive-through banking, car hops, road trips and a thousand other activities all centered around our cars. But the car culture is starting to change and carmakers, instead of fighting the trend this time, are on the front lines of ushering in the change.
The End Of The Two Car Garage
Automakers have thrown in the towel on the idea that everyone needs two cars and even that idea that everyone needs to own a car at all. In another twenty years, a two car garage will seem as old fashioned as a rotary dial phone does today. It’s simple economics driving the trend today, especially in big cities. Urban youth are living downtown where parking is expensive and alternative transportation options, including public transportation, are numerous. Cars are expensive and incur ongoing maintenance and insurance costs. Many young people simply can’t afford a car and a few aren’t even bothering with a driver’s license.
The Rise Of Ride Sharing
Uber and Lyft started out as little more than ways to make some extra money with your car. That started to change when GM bought Lyft and virtually every auto manufacturer now is either partners with a ride sharing service or starting one of their own. What was almost immediately obvious to carmakers is that car sharing services weren’t simply an alternative to more expensive cabs, they’re an alternative to owning a car at all. Auto manufacturers figured out that the best way to insure a future market for their cars was to own the ride sharing service.
Driving Autonomous Car Technology
Ride sharing services have also become the nexus for the next generation of cars that won’t need a driver to navigate city streets. It’s interesting that ride sharing services and carmakers are both involved in the drive for driverless cars. Just like with ride sharing services, automakers could see the writing on the wall and none of them want to be the last company selling cars that you have to steer yourself.
Government Not Ready
Like with any big change, our government is not ready for the transition. State governments are plunging blindly into an automotive future where fewer people will be paying taxes on new cars and registering vehicles. There will undoubtedly be a time when states are still requiring a traditional driver’s test, even while the number of manually driven cars is diminishing. States are still struggling with ride sharing services, so ride sharing autonomous cars are not even on regulator’s radar. And what happens to ticket revenue when machines are doing the driving? Would ticketing a machine really hold up in court?
It’s clear that autonomous cars and on-demand transportation are the future of automotive technology. What’s not clear is if our regulatory agencies and law enforcement will be ready. Like with any big change, it won’t all be bad, but it will be an adjustment for us all.