Car Share

Young people don’t want to own cars

Thursday, May 12, 2022 - 07:41
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Most OEMs are working overtime to develop and produce EVs ahead of the future ban on combustion engine vehicles, with the number of electric cars, buses, vans and trucks on roads expected to hit 145 million by 2030.

And it seems there’s appetite for it among consumers, with business intelligence company Morning Consult recently reporting a rise in car ownership in the US during December last year.

But while I do not doubt the positive impact EVs will have on our world for generations to come, I wonder if EV advocates are addressing the need of this target market – future generations – and in turn, misinterpreting what the behaviour of those generations will be.

In Morning Consult’s survey, it was Baby boomers aged between 57-75 reporting the highest purchase rates, for example.

Meanwhile, reports from other sources indicate that young adults in Great Britain and other countries are driving less than those in the early 1990s.

It’s no surprise, considering that Millenials, Gen Z-ers and beyond (which includes anyone under 40) are more than comfortable with the nature of “servitisation”.

Rising climate change awareness, better access to education propelling people to urban centres, and the rise of mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) and ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft are also obvious motivators for this shift – not to mention the shelf-life of second-hand cars and the high upfront cost of EVs.

The impact of COVID, and the near wholesale pivot to remote working in many countries remains to be seen. Some reports suggest that the pandemic has boosted car sales, however I suspect that people will re-evaluate the need for a personal car as the “daily commute” has reduced to only once or twice a week.

Bearing this in mind, when I look ahead, I can only envision a future where mobility-as-a-service is king, with most people simply using cars in a pay-as-you-go fashion, participating in ride-shares or taking autonomous taxis to get around, at least in urban areas.

You can already hitch rides in driverless vehicles in San Francisco as Waymo, Google’s self-driving car company, is product testing in real world conditions, a breakthrough for autonomous vehicle technology.

By 2030, it won’t be individuals we’ll be selling vehicles to. It’ll be large fleet owners i.e. ride-sharing companies, big corporations, and logistics companies – even governments and councils – who will offer highly automated and fully-electric mobility options in our public transport mix.

Ultimately, the reason why people buy cars in the first place is because it makes their lives more convenient, knowing they can go whenever and wherever they like. Driven by technological developments, the mobility sector will be more than able to deliver the same convenience, so the days of full car ownership really are numbered.

Although multiple OEMs have recognised the opportunity around MaaS a while back, launching direct-to-consumer subscription rental services, their largest focus remains on direct sales to end-consumers. It’s only a matter of time before OEMs will need to rethink their sales strategy and start embracing the new normal of selling services.

But while this transformation in the industry brings a huge opportunity to speed-up the introduction of fully-electric and autonomous driving, it will also bring challenges in relation to safety, compliance and regulations.

Service providers that own vehicle fleets, in turn, will be responsible for ensuring properly functioning vehicles in an impeccable state. Meaning that a service-led transport network will consequently take such onus away from the end-consumer, who will expect a convenient, reliable, and safe mobility experience.

Next-generation, automated vehicle inspection systems, underpinned by computer vision and machine learning software, will be vital for ensuring the quality and safety levels of large vehicle fleets. Asset management and predictive maintenance will become essential, particularly considering the significant number of miles these vehicles will be adding to their clocks.

Mobility and transportation have already grown to be much more complex and multi-layered than the initial private ownership model, but the auto industry needs to ensure it keeps accelerating towards the future of mobility, rather than driving in a dead-end street.

Author: Daan de Cloe, CTO, AutoFill Technologies