Peak Auto is Here! Or Maybe Not

Predictions are hard. Particularly predictions about the future.

But here’s a prediction that’s easy to make – we’re not at peak auto. Media goons think, and secretly hope, that private automobiles are a thing of the past. We will all be subscribers to ride sharing services faster than you can say Uber.

Just this week there was another article predicting that we are at peak auto, that auto sales are going to crater and car companies are going to crash. This defies all logic.

While there will no doubt be continued increase in ride sharing services and in dense urban environments car ownership may indeed decline, my prediction is that autonomous vehicles will result in more cars, not less.

In order to it to be otherwise, it would mean that for the first time in recorded history, a product or service will become easier to use, but we will want less of it.

There will be more cars because the gold standard of transportation is still the private automobile. If cars were about nothing more than getting from A to B, then any old used econo-box would do. Utility alone cannot explain the predominance of combat ready SUVs that are about all you can buy today.

Clearly, our cars are so much more than just transportation. They are a statement about who we are, or think we are, or wish we were.

Often, meaningless statistics are cited in defense of ride sharing services. Like the observation that our cars spend 95% or more of their time parked and not in use.

My toothbrush spends 99% of its life parked in a cup next to my sink, but that doesn’t mean I want to participate in a toothbrush sharing service. Having to ride in a car previously occupied by unsupervised strangers doing who knows what is about as appealing as a public toilet or a shared toothbrush.

Autonomous cars mean that the elderly never have to give up the keys and junior doesn’t have to wait until 16 to get his (or her) first car. The blind and disabled can be car owners too. That means more cars, not less.

Autonomous cars will probably be electric cars, which means cheaper to fuel and cheaper to maintain. That’s the additional secret to why cars will proliferate, not evaporate. Not only will they be easier to use, they’ll be cheaper too.

The world will be radically transformed by autonomous vehicles. There will surely be plenty of them.

Author

David J. Decker, President, Decker Properties, Inc.

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