A consulting group predicts we might just... never go back to driving as much as we did before Covid. Of course, I’m thrilled at the idea of it, even though I’m sure all of you other drivers will still find a way to do exactly the speed limit in front of me in the far left lane anyway. All that and more in The Morning Shift for October 5, 2020.
A new report in Bloomberg discusses how quarantine has trashed our collective mileage, and also notes that our high point may have been the mid-2000s. I was in high school then, which tracks with my general feeling at the time that I was experiencing the worst national culture America had yet to offer.
The early days of the Covid pandemic brought an unprecedented decline in driving in the U.S., with vehicle miles traveled down 41% from February to April on a seasonally adjusted basis. By July, the most recent month for which the Federal Highway Administration has released data, vehicle miles were still down 13% (seasonally adjusted) from February.
Driving will surely creep closer to its pre-pandemic level as Americans return to their offices this year and next. But it may never quite get there. A study this summer by accounting and consulting firm KPMG forecast that vehicle miles traveled will settle at about 90% of pre-2020 levels in coming years. On a per capita basis, they were down 5% from their all-time high in the mid-2000s even before the pandemic. Driving in the U.S. would seem to have peaked.
KPGM explains that the pandemic may be temporary, but the trends involved in cutting how much we drive—shopping online, working from home—are only boosted by Covid:
The reasons for this decline are straightforward. More and more people have been doing their jobs from home—and getting their entertainment and buying things there as well. (Yes, the goods people buy online are delivered in vehicles, but on balance this still results in fewer miles traveled than if everybody shopped in person.) These trends, which began with the arrival of widespread broadband internet access in the early 2000s, had been gaining strength in recent years. The pandemic has accelerated them.
The big question that remains is if the American government will ever subsidize not driving with the same vigor that it subsidizes driving itself, from roadwork to low gas taxes and on.
2nd Gear: Lyft Was In Talks To Sell Its Self-Driving Car Development To Bosch Or Maybe Partner With It: Report
A new report from The Information reveals that Lyft has been in some serious talks with Bosch about self-driving cars:
Lyft has had talks over the past year about joining forces on self-driving–car development with German automotive system manufacturer Bosch, according to two people with direct knowledge of the discussions.
Lyft also has considered selling a stake in its self-driving–car unit to a player such as Bosch, said the two people. The status of the talks with Bosch, which were ongoing as recently as this summer, isn’t clear. Bosch has an automated driving development unit with facilities in Silicon Valley.
I guess it’s up to interpretation if this means that the industry is greatly cooling on AVs or not.
September sales were down in the UK, a monthly low not seen since 1999, as Reuters reports:
There is normally strong demand in September as it is one of two occasions per year when the licence plate series changes.
But last month sales dropped by 4% to 328,041 cars, the smallest figure since 1999, when the dual number plate series was introduced in Britain, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
“This is not a recovery,” said SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes. “Unless the pandemic is controlled and economy-wide consumer and business confidence rebuilt, the short-term future looks very challenging indeed.”
4th Gear: Toyota And Nissan Want UK Government To Pony Up The Costs Of A Failing To Get A Trade Deal
I can’t help but feel a little righteous about Toyota and Nissan wanting money from the UK government if it’s the UK government that screws it out of a reasonable national economy. Via Reuters:
Toyota and Nissan will ask for reimbursement from Britain if the U.K. government fails to agree on a trade deal with the European Union, the Nikkei financial daily reported on Monday.
The Japanese automakers are bracing for a 10 percent tariff on cars exported from the U.K. to the EU and are demanding that the government pay extra costs, the Nikkei reported on Monday.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday that he did not particularly wish for a Brexit transition period to end without a new trade deal in place but that Britain could live with such an outcome.
I would not call this a silver lining, but I’m impressed that Covid is doing the work that regulators could not, as the Agence France-Press reports:
“Questions abound over whether it is still profitable to look for oil given subdued demand growth prospects and a low-price environment,” said Stephen Brennock, an analyst at oil brokers PVM. “The answer seems not, judging by the recent spate of massive hydrocarbon asset writedowns. Set against this backdrop, I don’t expect a rebound in drilling in the medium-term. Instead, oil majors will be forced to beef up their green energy portfolios in order to survive.”
Compared to prepandemic plans, the energy sector has slashed exploration projects in U.K. North Sea waters by 70 percent and by 30 percent off the coast of Norway, according to research group Westwood.
U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil has cut its total exploration plans by 30 percent, or an investment reduction of $10 billion (€8.4 billion).
From October 5, 1974, “American circumnavigates the globe on foot,” via History:
American Dave Kunst completes the first round-the-world journey on foot, taking four years and 21 pairs of shoes to complete the 14,500-mile journey across the land masses of four continents. He left his hometown of Waseca, Minnesota, on June 20, 1970. Near the end of his journey in 1974 he explained the reasons for his epic trek: “I was tired of Waseca, tired of my job, tired of a lot of little people who don’t want to think, and tired of my wife.” During the long journey, he took on sponsors and helped raise money for UNICEF.
Do we think that the cars that are now driving less are sad that they are putting fewer miles down, or happy they are spending more quality time in the driveway? It is my assumption that the cars are happy to be hangin’ out.