What Do Driverless Cars Mean for Personal Use and Shared-Use? – Part 2

Self-driving vehicles will have a major impact on our transportation system and society. They will increase access to transportation, reduce congestion, reduce labor costs and improve the overall transportation efficiency. In our interview, Steve Gutmann, a business development executive with experience at two well-known car sharing companies explains how self-driving technology will impact consumers, businesses and cities.

How will a car sharing system work when using autonomous vehicles?

The fleet will probably operate much like a taxi fleet, except that there will not be any drivers. Users will hail a nearby driverless cab using their smart phone. The vehicle will alert them, probably on the customer’s mobile device, as it is approaching and billing will begin once the trip commenced. The cost will be based on the trip duration, number of passengers and distance traveled. Payment will be automatic.

After the passengers were dropped off, the vehicle will move on and pick up the next passenger. A single car could transport many different people throughout the day. And during periods of low demand, some of the extra vehicles could drive themselves to the car wash, get themselves recharged, have any necessary routine maintenance done and then either park temporarily or move to an area of higher demand.

What are the benefits for consumers, businesses and cities?

Improved safety will be the main benefit of a shared autonomous vehicle fleet. Accidents will likely fall close to zero. This will decrease suffering, and it will also reduce repair and insurance costs will very likely fall, leaving more money in consumers’ pockets.

In terms of efficiency, both capital and energy efficiency will improve dramatically. Cars being used more intensively will result in far higher capital efficiency. A $25,000 car being used efficiently and effectively should increase the owner’s return on that asset. Similarly, shared vehicle will be probably optimized for efficiency rather than performance, and it will lend itself to electrification, since it could turn itself off and find a recharging station automatically when its battery levels dropped below a certain level.

A third benefit will be the impact on urban land use. If each shared autonomous car replaced 10 personal cars, the need for parking will decrease by 90 percent. This will leave more room for either re-development into residential, commercial or industrial space, or for designated green space.

In addition, entire strips of on-street, curbside parking could be replaced by play areas, community gardens or dedicated bikeways. Much of the resistance to living in dense urban areas has to do with air and noise pollution, excessive car traffic and parking congestion, so reducing the number of cars in cities will very likely increase their appeal to more people.

How can autonomous car sharing fleets be integrated into a public transit system?

The cost of paid drivers dramatically distorts the relative cost of public transportation vs. personal transportation, because we generally do not put a price tag on our time when driving. Once both public transportation systems and car sharing fleets are both using driverless vehicles, busses and trains should finally have real cost advantages.

Why? Because a single driverless bus carrying 50 passengers will cost far less to operate than 50 driverless cars that are each carrying a single passenger. So a ride in a driverless car will cost more than a ride on a driverless bus.

What about the impact on bicycling?

Bicycling will continue to be the cheapest and most efficient way to travel in urban areas. Bicycling and public transportation will both expand with a shift to shared, driverless vehicles. So, public transportation authorities must be quick to adopt driverless vehicles, because driverless shared fleets could end up being far less expensive to use than public transit vehicles with paid drivers, so, they could dramatically reduce the overall demand for public transit.

Transitioning to a public transit system without drivers obviously would not be easy, since there are many bus drivers’ jobs and livelihoods at stake.

Leave a comment: If autonomous shared fleets are available in the near future, would you use them more frequently compared to now and why?


Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.

What Do Driverless Cars Mean for Personal Use and Shared-Use? – Part 1

Over the past few years, the sharing economy has rapidly grown worldwide. Owing things is becoming outdated, consumers are renting their homes and automobiles and businesses are leasing out their properties and equipments. In our interview, Steve Gutmann, a business development executive with experience at two well-known car sharing companies explains how self-driving technology could cause a shift from ownership to shared-use mobility.

Could driverless cars cause a societal shift from private car ownership towards car sharing?

Absolutely. There are comparable shifts happening in many industries right now – the transition from ownership to access. This theory of future trends was first presented in Jeremy Rifkin’s book, The Age of Access, back in 2000.

The value proposition of access over ownership is particularly evident with cars, since a typical personally-owned car: (a) is idle 23 hours a day; (b) is very expensive to purchase, insure, maintain and park and (c) is optimized for a particular type of trip. People are already shifting to hourly and daily access (via rental and car-sharing) and this will only accelerate with driverless car technology.

This is not happening in all geographies. Suburbs and rural areas remain car dependent; however, in cities, car ownership is becoming more of a hassle than a benefit and increasing numbers of people are choosing to live car free. Driverless technology will almost certainly accelerate this trend.

Why will driverless technology accelerate this trend?

There are several reasons. First, autonomous vehicles will cause the cost per trip in a car share vehicle to fall. At present, Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) are, like traditional taxis, still fairly expensive, because each fare must cover not only the cost of the car, fuel and insurance, but also the driver’s wage. Renting a car via a car sharing company is significantly cheaper; however, these firms still have to pay quite a few people to clean, fuel up, repair and rebalance their fleets.

Once cars are driverless, many of the labor costs of providing networked access to shared cars will be eliminated, because the cars will be able to drive themselves to be refueled, washed, maintained and re-distributed throughout the city. In addition, insurance is currently a major cost for car sharing companies and this cost will fall with autonomous vehicles, which are widely expected to be much safer than human-driven vehicles. So, driverless shared cars should, before long, offer far less expensive mobility, on a per-trip basis, than personal cars.

Second, the market for shared access to cars will expand dramatically once they are driverless. Many people who are currently unable to drive – those who are elderly or disabled, intoxicated, or still too young to drive – cannot use car share fleets today, but there is no reason they would not be able to use driverless car share vehicles. These groups of people can, of course, use taxis and TNCs today; however, as already noted, these services are still relatively expensive because of the cost of a paid driver.

What will be the role of a driver when a driverless car is used as a personal vehicle and when used as a shared vehicle?

The role of the driver will be the same in all driverless cars, whether they are owned or shared: it will change into the current role of a passenger, and even fewer young people will bother to learn to drive.

The role of the driverless car will vary a lot depending on whether or not it is shared. If a driverless car is used as a personal vehicle, the vehicle will become an extension of the owner’s home. It will be a rolling office or living room, full of personal items.

By contrast, if the driverless car is simply a mode of transportation from A to B, it will not be a rolling closet full of the user’s personal stuff. It will likely be readily and possibly even automatically customized to match the driver’s saved preferences (for example, with more or less window tinting, interior lighting, music, seat configuration, etc.), but it will not become a “rolling closet” full of anyone’s personal effects.

Leave a comment: would you prefer using an autonomous vehicle as a personal car or shared car and why?


Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.