Once a symbol of modern prosperity, the automobile is evolving in terms of both technology and function. As ride-hailing and car-sharing platforms proliferate and autonomous driving technology advances, what will the car of the future look like? At the New Economy Summit (NEST) 2017, a panel of experts gathered to consider how far ride-sharing has come and how autonomous vehicles will change the industry.
Owners become sharers
“We believe that in the future, the idea that people who own cars and use them one or two hours a day and then park them most of the time will go away, and that sharing will become the predominant mode of transportation,” said Sam Zaid, CEO and co-founder of Getaround, a peer-to-peer car-sharing platform that lets owners rent out their cars when they don’t need them.
The California-based company claims active users can make $10,000 per year per car using the platform; high-end vehicles such as Tesla models feature prominently. Getaround has been partnering with companies such as ride-hailing titan Uber and Toyota Motor, which recently participated in a $45 million funding round, in a bid to spread the idea of ride-sharing and lower the cost of car ownership.
“Probably the hardest thing of all is that it’s a new behavior for a lot of people,” said Zaid. “We have to change people’s thinking.”
The self-driving revolution
Ride-sharing and ride-hailing platforms will evolve with the advent of autonomous vehicles, which are expected to give rise to a market worth $83 billion by 2025, according to U.S. consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.
“Car companies are developing self-driving vehicles around the world and we’ll see more and more news about them ahead of 2020 – self-driving trucks and taxis were advancing and now passenger cars are catching up too,” said panelist Masataka Osaki, Japan country manager for NVIDIA, a U.S. technology firm that produces hardware for autonomous driving. Its Drive PX 2, for instance, is an artificial intelligence platform that uses deep neural networks and computer vision when processing data from vehicle sensors and cameras.
Zaid said that the ability to make money through Getaround will allow people to afford autonomous vehicles because they will be pricier than regular cars when they eventually make it to market.
“Once the vehicles are autonomous, there won’t be a difference between ride-sharing and car-sharing platforms,” said panelist Juan de Antonio, founder and CEO of ride-sharing startup Cabify, which operates in Latin America, Spain and Portugal. He added that the cost of labor will influence the rate of autonomous vehicle adoption in various regions around the world.
Mudassir Sheikha, CEO and co-founder of Middle East ride-hailing startup Careem, which provides employment opportunities for 200,000 drivers known as “captains”, noted that Dubai is already experimenting with 10-passenger autonomous carts that ply fixed routes. The United Arab Emirates’ largest city has announced an ambitious vision of 25% of all trips taking place in autonomous cars by 2030 – and even has plans to launch self-piloted passenger drones this year.
“But what happens to the millions of drivers that are transporting us today?” Sheikha said, noting how grave unemployment is in the Middle East. “I think we all have a social responsibility to look after the captains, and make sure they get up-skilled to do other things.”
Read more reports on NEST 2017 here.