On Sunday, the president of ride-hailing company Lyft, John Zimmer, blogged a prediction that private car ownership would essentially be over in U.S. cities by 2025. The end of private ownership in cities is part of how he and the company view the future of U.S. transportation, and it sure sounds optimistic.
Lyft is currently made up of drivers who give others rides for a fee. Zimmer said self-driving cars—which are on the way, but will still need to wait for updated legislation before heading onto the streets once ready—will soon remove both the need for one’s own car and for his company to rely on human drivers. He plans for human drivers to be gone from Lyft in 2025.
That, somehow, equates to the end of private ownership in cities, according to the predictions. The argument Zimmer makes in the blog is somewhat plausible, but it is a fast timeline for a future that has many more possibilities than just services like Lyft. From the post:
As a country, we’ve long celebrated cars as symbols of freedom and identity. But for many people — especially millennials — this doesn’t ring true. We see car ownership as a burden that is costing the average American $9,000 every year. The car has actually become more like a $9,000 ball and chain that gets dragged through our daily life. Owning a car means monthly car payments, searching for parking, buying fuel, and dealing with repairs.
Ridesharing has already begun to empower many people to live without owning a car. The age of young people with driver’s licenses has been steadily decreasing ever since right around when I was born. In 1983, 92% of 20 to 24-year-olds had driver’s licenses. In 2014 it was just 77%. In 1983, 46% of 16-year-olds had licenses. Today it’s just 24%. All told, a millennial today is 30% less likely to buy a car than someone from the previous generation.
It’s true that we’re already taking steps in that direction, like Lyft competitor Uber’s testing of a fleet of autonomous-capable cars in Pittsburgh. But they’re baby steps. Going from that to an end to private car ownership in American cities in nine years seems—well, let’s just say Zimmer has a lot more faith in the speed of technology, legislation and human behavior than we do.
With extensive city plans like L.A.’s recent one to make public transportation greener and more accommodating, the future could very well eliminate private cars in cities. But that kind of infrastructure all feels more theoretical for the time being—especially while sitting in rush-hour traffic—and 2025 doesn’t feel too far away.
It not only feels like Zimmer is pushing his prediction in terms of time, but also options. Tesla’s new Master Plan, published in July, details ride sharing through private ownership once full autonomy is on the car market. It would allow cars to be summoned by others should private owners want to list their vehicle on Tesla’s ride-sharing fleet, which would generate extra owner income while the car is not in use. That income, according to Tesla’s plan, would “significantly offsetting and at times potentially exceeding the monthly loan or lease cost.”
The car market could go either way—public or private ride sharing—or it could go a completely different way. Few will disagree cities need better transit options, but to say private ownership in general will be out in cities is slightly absurd. People will still go on road trips, want to travel outside of the city occasionally and enjoy wrenching on vehicles, and those people can’t necessarily help where they’re located.
What would happen to all those cars, anyway?