the future of the automobile

Shared automobiles may soon replace owner-drivers. That, apparently, is the future that US manufacturers expect.

Senior figures at Ford and General Motors make no secret of one of the goals of their drive into innovative technologies …. Yet those cities also face congestion problems that make it far from obvious the arrival of new, space-hungry cars is the solution to their problems.

Mike Abelson, GM’s head of strategy, [says] … “It’s not in our interests to pull so many people off mass transit that everybody ends up gridlocked on the streets,” ….

Mark Wakefield, head of automotive for AlixPartners, the consultancy, says … a single ride-hailing vehicle could displace 32 existing vehicles in the US car fleet, potentially sharply reducing the need for them. …. [Emphasis added.]

Raj Nair, head of product development at Ford, predicts that, even if the rise of autonomous vehicles boosts their total number, the new, smarter vehicles might cause less congestion than existing cars.

“Instead of empty taxis and people looking for parking spots, all of those tiers could theoretically play into reducing congestion, particularly in urban areas,” Mr Nair says.

Robert Wright, “US autos: Adding new routes“, Financial Times, Big Read, 12 July 2016 (metered paywall).

But is this a conceivable future for transport services? I wonder. In cities, at least, buses and trains might be more economical, perhaps leaving to shared automobiles the task of servicing the final few kilometres of each journey.

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