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What Will Ridesharing and Autonomous Cars Mean for one Another?

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. In fact, while everyone automatically thinks of Uber, and it is by recognition synonymous with ridesharing, other players have been operating in the market for just as long, or with a different purpose – a community focus, one that allows people to share costs, and reduce the burden on the environment, by riding together. In the US alone, 15 million consumers are anticipated to use a P2P transportation system this year.

Source: Phandroid.com

Source: Phandroid.com

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. Even Google has made a play in this segment via its carpooling subsidiary ‘Waze’, while Apple has invested $1b into a Chinese ridesharing company, Didi Chuxing. 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 driverless vehicles are best placed to enter the market?

For its part, self-driving vehicles are, realistically, years away from becoming accessible to the public – yet alone mainstream. Although countless manufacturers, and tech companies, are working on various iterations, there are still numerous hurdles for businesses to clear before being in a position where they can begin to market the first fully autonomous vehicles – from public infrastructure to vehicle development, driver education to local regulations, there is no shortage of challenges ahead.

When the autonomous car does eventually take off, it 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 may want their own vehicle and privacy, and others who may be open to sharing – and depending on the context, this may change further.

Thus, it is this dilemma which will test manufacturers metal as to whether the ridesharing concept and self-driving car can co-function, 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, in turn pushing down production volumes – can manufacturers still squeeze out the same margins without alienating consumers by lifting prices exorbitantly? Or could it be a case of ‘survival of the fittest’, where those with a finger in each pie are likely to succeed – in which case, our motoring future could be shaped by tech giants.

One thing is for certain, driving for the mainstream consumer won’t be the same in the long-term future – but of the motoring diehards among us, who will benefit as manufacturers compete amongst one another to remain viable by means of better quality cars, our experiences should only get better.

One comment

  1. Bill says:

    Self driving cars might arrive by the time I am forced to give up my driver’s license due to age. Not a bad thing. No need to hire James as a driver. Guess I’ll call my self driving car Virginia.

    May 25th, 2016 at 10:56 pm