There is growing evidence that tomorrow’s urban cars will be “safe, green and connected,” Mary Gustanski, Delphi’s vice president of engineering, recently told Car Talk. “We’re going to see more electrification, and the electric car will merge with automated driving and the connected car.”
Electric vehicles (EVs) now hold just a 1% share of the global fleet on the road, but it could comprise 15% to 35% of total global new vehicle sales by 2040, according to IHS Markit. Worldwide sales are up more than 1,000% since 2010.
In Europe and China, where regulation encourages plug-ins, EVs could be more than half of new passenger vehicle sales by 2040 — the same time fully autonomous cars are expected to rule the roads.
The auto industry is moving toward the self-driving car; and semi-autonomous cars — able to operate hands-off, but with a driver behind the wheel — are already on sale.
According to Deloitte, the shift to take our hands off the wheel “could occur more quickly and at greater scale than many are prepared for, especially in densely populated areas.” Cities will probably be the first laboratories for autonomous technology.
Will these vehicles simply replace our current private cars? Maybe not. With cities in the vanguard, we seem to be evolving toward a growing reliance on shared fleet cars. “We will primarily see autonomous cars in on-demand mobility fleets,” said Sam Abuelsamid, a senior research analyst at Navigant Research. “There’s a distinct possibility that consumers will never actually be able to buy them.”
As Abuelsamid pointed out, there are good reasons for fleet ownership of self-driving cars, including the fact that maintenance will be critical. “Once a car is sold to a consumer, the manufacturer no longer has control over which parts are put on that vehicle, and when we’re talking about the sensors that control the car, it’s critical that they not be replaced with cheap, off-brand parts,” he said. But poor-quality parts could also be outlawed by regulation.
Robin Chase, co-founder of Zipcar, argued that serving our transportation needs with fleets of autonomous electric cars is an ideal scenario for these reasons. “Simply eliminating the drivers from cars, and keeping everything else the same, will be a disaster,” she said. “If we share rides in shared cars, we will only need 10% of the cars we have today. … We have the ability to eliminate congestion, transform the livability of cities, make it possible to travel quickly and safely from A to B for the price of a bus ticket, improve the quality of our air, and make a significant dent in reducing carbon dioxide emissions,” she said.
Read more of the original article at Wharton.