Consider the mobility dilemma of two people, one in the suburbs and the other in a city.
The first person is a 68-year-old woman whose husband recently died. Poor eyesight means she can’t drive anymore, so how is she going to escape being housebound in a development built around cars?
The second is that same woman’s 34-year-old daughter, who grew up in the suburbs but now has a downtown apartment. She still has a car, but it’s expensive to keep in an urban garage. Because there are other choices now — from taxi disrupters Uber and Lyft, traditional car sharers like Zipcar, the personal version from Turo, and an autonomous car right around the corner — she’s thinking of going car-free. But she also has two kids and needs to get them to places in their increasingly scheduled lives.
Lyft, and arch-competitor Uber, offer urban transportation options right now. (Photo: Raido/flickr)
Both of these people — baby boomer and millennial — will benefit greatly from the coming world of autonomous driving and expanded ride services, says a new report from audit, tax and advisory group KPMG, released at the Los Angeles Auto Show. KPMG interviewed focus groups in Atlanta, Chicago and Denver. The interviews are illuminating.
Michele, 38, of Atlanta, says, “I have three children. My 16-year-old got a job. It was a nightmare. I felt like I was a taxi. I felt like she should be paying me for driving her around all the time. I don’t want to go out in my pajamas at 11 p.m. to get her.” Is she ready for a mobility option? You bet.
Arlene, 74, in Denver, agrees. “For high-school-age kids, [mobility options] might be a good thing because kids do crazy things….I’d be happy to pay a mobility-on-demand service rather than see them getting in a car with someone I didn’t know who might be drinking.”
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Mason, a 69-year-old from Atlanta, isn’t an old fogey about personal mobility — when he comes into an airport late at night, he uses Uber. Other focus group participants also cite safety as a reason for using the new services (though one says she doesn’t trust public transit after 10 p.m.)
KPMG also calculated that because of new choices for people who might otherwise have stayed home, we’re going to see people traveling a lot more in the U.S. — 500 billion more miles by 2050. “The increase in personal miles traveled may seem startling,” the company says, “but think of it this way: 10 years ago, how many of us would have predicted that most 10-year-olds would be walking around with smartphones?”
Aside from considering the congestion and climate implications of all those miles, we can also see benefits — the dutiful son who doesn’t have to take the keys away from grandpa; the 15-year-old with piano lessons who doesn’t need a ride from mom anymore.
KPMG handed out its report at the L.A. Auto Show because it wants carmakers to see their opportunity: “These additional personal miles traveled offer a golden opportunity for the auto industry,” the report says. “They represent an additional trillion miles of new mobility options and the potential for new business models to satisfy them.”
Jessica Scorpio of Getaround with a shareable Tesla Roadster. Choices, choices. (Photo: TechCrunch/flickr)
Automakers aren’t ignoring these opportunities. Mercedes-Benz launched the Car2Go sharing network in the U.S. and Europe; it has rapidly expanded since its launch in Germany in 2008. Audi and Fiat have partnered with personal car-sharing service Getaround. BMW created DriveNow in San Francisco, but then pulled out earlier this year because of parking difficulties for one-way rides.
Gary Silberg, KPMG’s national automotive industry leader, thinks we’ll see, in the next decade, as many changes as in the previous century. It’s hard to argue with that. That’s why the report is entitled “The Clockspeed Dilemma.” Carmakers, used to taking their time getting out new models, will have to speed it up to keep up with the faster pace of innovation. Here's some video to flesh out the report: