Private car ownership in the United States is still holding strong as the dominant form of transportation, but the base of that paradigm is starting to crack.
Nearly a quarter of US adults sold or traded in a car over the last year, and almost 10 percent of that group didn’t replace their vehicle with a new one to get around. Instead, they opted to depend on ride hailing apps like Uber and Lyft as their go-to mode of car transportation, bucking the norm of private car ownership.
The poll was conducted online, with 584 respondents who said they got rid of a vehicle within the last 12 months and 566 people who claimed they’re planning to do so in the next 12 months.
Most of the respondents were just trading in one car for another or depending on another car they already owned but nine percent of people specifically cited ride hailing services as their new primary form of transportation, with nearly as many who said they plan on doing the same in the future. Another nine percent said they depended on other means like mass transit and biking, which is just as telling about the future of car ownership.
That’s not a huge number just yet, and the poll had a narrow focus on car owners without considering other factors, like where the people giving up their cars for good actually live. Even though car hailing apps have become more prevalent outside of cities, their use is still largely concentrated in urban areas, while those in more rural regions don’t have other options to get around, so they might be less likely to get rid of their vehicles.
Still, the survey could signal a growing trend as transportation trends shift. This was the first poll of its kind from the groups, so there’s little existing data to draw upon to track the trend, but it’s a start.
The shift begins
This type of trend is exactly why traditional automakers have partnered with ride hailing apps like Uber and Lyft, and made moves to enter the car sharing space. GM alone has made a $500 million investment in Lyft and launched programs focused on car sharing, Maven and BOOK, while German automaker Daimler partnered with Uber to provide the next generation of its autonomous cars. As these alternative plans become more common and innovations like self-driving cars hit the streets, the modern idea of car ownership could very well be on the way out.
It’s clearly what automotive companies are seeing as they prepare for the next stages in mobility. Many future-forward concepts we’ve seen lately have revolved around the idea of ride hailing and sharing, rather than the traditional construct of private vehicles for every household.
Mercedes-Benz has outlined a vision of cities filled with roving autonomous taxis, for one, and Volkswagen’s Sedric concept was unveiled with the assumption that future roads will be filled with “intensively used vehicles” that will cut traffic and energy consumption while increasing safety and sustainability.