/Transportation is transforming amid ride sharing and automation. Are we headed for a ‘carpocalypse’?

Transportation is transforming amid ride sharing and automation. Are we headed for a ‘carpocalypse’?

Simultaneous developments in electrification, automation and sharing have created a “perfect storm” for innovation in the automotive industry over the past three years, but don’t expect a “carpocalypse” as transportation technology evolves.

Auto tech investors, entrepreneurs and manufacturers agreed at the Collision Conference in Toronto this week that car ownership won’t disappear as it will take decades to roll out fully autonomous vehicles that can whip around cities, successfully avoiding unpredictable pedestrians in their paths as they seamlessly deliver commuters to work before driving their children to school.

But the industry acknowledged the percentage of people owning cars could decrease as transportation is increasingly viewed as a service, not exclusively as an asset.

The problem with the old model is inefficiency. Personal vehicles sit idle 95 per cent of the time, parking spots cover an average 25 per cent of a city’s area and commuters spend 50 per cent of public transportation time in the first and last mile of their journeys, NGP Capital managing partner Paul Asel said in an interview.

Asel, whose venture capital firm invests in mobility companies including electric scooter sharing service Lime, said connectivity is changing the game, whether it involves ride sharing companies like Uber connecting drivers and passengers via smartphones or scooter services like Lime enabling fast last-mile connections.

“We have an opportunity to change the paradigm of how we commute,” Asel said.

Even automakers, who are collectively grappling with fears that young people aren’t getting their drivers licences and may not buy as many vehicles, agree the system has room for optimization.

“Mobility is going to have many options,” said Zaki Fasihuddin, chief executive of Volvo Cars Technology, in a panel discussion on the future of car ownership.

As automakers embed connectivity into their vehicles — Volvo has 1 million connected vehicles on the road, Fasihuddin said — they can monitor shared data on utilization that could eventually be used to optimize the fleet should people sign up to use cars as a service.


Lime electric scooters in Paris.

Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images

That might not be bad for sales, as more utilization could lead to more wear and tear, Fasihuddin said.

As it stands, about 84 per cent of Canadians surveyed in a poll own a vehicle and another 9 per cent want to buy one. The study was conducted by Angus Reid in April for Turo, an American car sharing company that started operating in Canada three years ago. More comparable to Airbnb than Uber, its platform enables people to rent out their personal vehicles when they’re not using them. As such, its business relies on car owners for supply and car-free people for demand.

Turo chief executive Andre Haddad expects car ownership to decline to about 70 per cent, as people locate in rural areas and those in the family phase of life continue using the traditional ownership model. But as cities get bigger and denser, more people are choosing to forgo ownership to travel by transit or ridesharing and rent cars on the weekend.

Connectivity makes sharing easier and enables services like Turo, which uses telematics embedded in cars, to track mileage and allow owners to remotely grant access to their cars, Haddad said.

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