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How will Self-Driving Vehicles co-exist with Ridesharing?

In one corner of the ring, we have the arch nemesis of taxi drivers and motoring manufacturers – the ridesharing phenomenon. In the other corner, we have the antihero of all ‘motorheads’ – the self-driving car. But as consumers and pundits alike take sides in this battle to determine the future direction of driving, is it possible the two will co-exist and operate in harmony?

On the one hand, ridesharing has been around for several years now and is far from a new concept. As each year goes by, more and more players look to penetrated this market, and car pooling has long been a community thing in the likes of the US, allowing people to share costs, and reduce the burden on the environment, by riding together. In the US alone, more than 15 million consumers are anticipated to use P2P transportation each year.


With this head start, we’ve seen a change in consumer perception – moving slowly towards acceptance. Governments (and airports) have also been required to keep up to speed – from the US to Australia, more states are legalising ridesharing, which is encouraging the entry of further businesses to offer services. Of course, there are still some governments that oppose the operation of ridesharing services based on a financial arrangement – but even in these locations, the public often has a differing viewpoint.

But for all its growth, will the P2P ridesharing system inevitably reach a point of maturity and saturation? Is that the point at which self-driving vehicles are best placed to enter the market?

For its part, fully autonomous vehicles are, realistically, years away from becoming accessible to the public – let alone mainstream. Although countless manufacturers, and tech companies, are working on various iterations with some capacity for self-driving, there are still numerous hurdles for businesses to clear before being in a position where they can begin to market fully autonomous vehicles – from public infrastructure to vehicle development, driver education to local regulations, there are still challenges ahead, even after years of work.

When fully autonomous cars do eventually get through the rigorous testing hurdles in place, they will be limited to a niche audience – ultimately, those who want the convenience of being transported from point to point. Even more relevant, however, this audience may be further divided into those that want their own vehicle and privacy, and others who may be open to sharing.

Thus, it is this dilemma which will test manufacturers as to whether the ridesharing concept and self-driving car can co-exist in harmony, not least of which the consideration that it could come at their own detriment. After all, a ridesharing concept is only going to decrease the number of vehicles on the roads and reduce ownership levels, which in turn pushes down production volumes and hurts manufacturers profits. Will they be able to make up their lost profits elsewhere? Unlikely. What could turn out to be just as likely, however, is a case of ‘survival of the fittest’, where those with a finger in each pie come out on top – in which case, our motoring future could be shaped by tech giants. Tesla has already transformed itself into one, what’s stopping others from doing the same?

One thing is for certain, driving for the mainstream consumer won’t be the same in the long-term future!