Driverless Cars: Where are they heading?

Driverless Cars: Where are they heading?

The IPOs of Lyft and Uber are notable not just for their astounding valuations but because they mean that the new business models of ride-hailing and ride-sharing are finally going mainstream.

More than a century ago, Henry Ford revolutionised automobile ownership with the introduction of the Model T in 1908. Mass production made it the first genuinely affordable car and although it was famously available in all colours as long as they were black, the Model T profoundly changed the course of American cities and society. Owning a car provided the freedom to travel greater distances in search of better opportunities and experiences. Demand for the Model T was so enormous that to this day it is one of the bestselling cars of all time. Mass produced, affordable cars (as well as trucks and tractors) were a disruptive technology and are one of the major reasons the US is the wealthiest country on earth; and they play a similar role in other countries to this day.

Today new technologies are disrupting old ones and attitudes to car ownership have changed. New business models are everywhere. Companies like BlaBlaCar (ride sharing) and ZipCar (car sharing) have joined Uber and Lyft, to reduce the need for people to own a car. With so many on-demand personal transportation options, it is questionable if owning a car means as much to millennials as it did to previous generations. The signs are that it does not.

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