The vast majority of cars on the road today are used only by their owners, and are not shared in any structured manner. But that’s all about to change.
Within a decade or two, self-driving cars will become commonplace. Vehicles will coast around our towns and cities without a human behind the wheel. Imagine the day when an autonomous car picks you up each morning and brings you to work, for a fraction of the cost of owning the vehicle.
In this new era, instead of investing in a single car for ten years, we simply need to think about where we want to go, and how we’d like to get there. Then we can select the best vehicle to use for every occasion.
But the emergence of driverless cars poses a range of questions, one of which is the ownership model that will dominate in the future. Options include outright ownership, fractional ownership, pay-per-ride, and mobility-as-a-service.
Fractional ownership is already popular in the world of private jets and luxury yachts. You purchase equity in a brand, rather than buying a single craft. The cost depends on how frequently you plan to use the vehicle. Maintenance, insurance and storage are handled by the brand instead of the customer. This model would particularly suit wealthier individuals, who prefer to be seen in an exclusive brand of car.
Mobility-as-a-service is an alternative model whereby you pay a monthly fee, and a mobility service app will help you get where you want to go, by delivering an appropriate autonomous vehicle when you need it. Unlike fractional ownership, you’re not investing in a brand, but rather ensuring you can get from A to B as cheaply and efficiently as possible. Think of it as a step up from public transportation.
Pay-per-ride is another option, which has already been made popular by companies like Uber and Lyft. These organisations are likely to quickly adopt driverless technology, by managing self-driving cars in the same way they operate their existing human-driven fleet. You’ll simply call them up, and they’ll send a driverless car to your location for a fee. Pay-per-ride companies may employ privately owned driverless cars, in addition to their own vehicles.
Whatever the model, self-driving technology is evolving rapidly. And once driverless cars become inexpensive and commonplace, it may no longer make sense for most people to continue owning a private vehicle.