The future of cars is somewhat murky. We know that electrified vehicles will gradually take the reins from internal combustion - that’s pretty certain, though the timeline and finer points are still up in the air. Cars will look different, behave in new ways, and will definitely be much quieter.
The advent of the autonomous car, though, one that drives itself, stands to have a much more immediate impact in the way cars themselves fit into our lives, for better or worse. Humans have a propensity to avoid labour, even if that includes driving, at all costs.
A sustained encroachment of active safety systems and features such as active cruise control, lane keep assist, and traffic jam assist to some extent take the pressures off the driver by relinquishing control over to the car while the the meat sack behind the wheel passively observes and (hopefully) approves.
But, over time, as these systems become capable of being handed greater and greater chunks of the on-the-move responsibilities, the less likely it would be that people will consider qualities like handling and power and exterior design when buying a car. In fact, according to a study conducted by Credit Suisse, as these cars become more functionally more narrow and homogeneous, private car ownership will apparently crawl to a near-stop by the year 2030.
“Our global automotive production chain model forecasts global car production flatlining from 2030 with rising production in developing markets offset by declines in developed markets. Within that, we expect UK production levels to begin a structural decline from around 2030, falling about 1% per year from that year as autonomous vehicles comprise a greater proportion of the UK.”
These findings are also impacted by the rise of ride hailing services which use should rise in frequency and affordability, becoming the most efficient way of getting around most urban centres and its surrounding suburbs. And as more of these services start to make headway with autonomous driving solutions, the cost and convenience argument is set to become even stronger against private car ownership.
That said, the Credit Suisse study also found that owning your own vehicle will still be the most cost-effective means of transportation for vast majority of those living outside of major cities and more rural areas.
Its predictions stated that by 2040, approximately 14 percent of all new cars will be capable of autonomous driving - though, it doesn't disclose to which exact tier of autonomy is referred, so we’ll assume Level 4 - while roughly 30 percent will be at least capable of semi-autonomous driving.
How this future might impact the auto industry? Should this prove accurate, for one thing, carmakers will need to adapt quickly to implement more and more autonomous features over its competitor just to survive. Furthermore, their business model might also need a thorough upending. We’re seeing the first buds of this materialising, where a company would instead rely on subscription-based programmes that provides access to a multitude of different vehicles for various needs.