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Will you own a car in the future?

23rd April 2019

In 2018, our government announced a range of targets that they hope will ultimately see a complete ban on petrol and diesel vehicles by the middle of the 21st century. It held the world’s first ‘Zero Emission Vehicle’ summit, outlining a vision for "all new cars and vans to be emission-free by 2040".

In other words, we'll be all running on battery power 20 years from now.

France has committed to banning non-electric vehicles, while the Bank of America said recently that the US is reaching “peak car” and predicted much “disruption” within the transportation industry.

‘Significant’ environmental and financial factors

The environmental benefits of all-electric vehicles are enormous. In real terms, someone driving a car today that produces 150 grams of CO2 per kilometre will pump 1.5 metric tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every year if they do 10,000 kilometres a year (just over 6200 miles).

And, whatever the CO2 figure, vehicles that are contributing to it now will be replaced by cars that contribute nothing in terms of emissions, with the sources of electric power getting greener all the time, too. More of us are already driving hybrids, with a handful of all-electric, engineless vehicles on the roads already.

The financial element of transportation could change as much as the environmental factors. Because, by 2040, will we own a car at all? Car ownership is expensive; not only is there the cost of buying the vehicle, but there is also insurance, tax, MOT and servicing, as well as fuel and other maintenance costs.

Imagine being able to set this all aside because you no longer need to run a car. Picture opening an app on your smartphone, ordering a vehicle, and within minutes, that car pulls up outside your house to transport you to wherever you want to go.

Smart vehicle-on-demand

Smart technologies and the continuing progress of autonomous, self-driving vehicles brings about opportunities for cars to become ‘on demand' in a ‘pay as you go’ environment, rather like an autonomous taxi service.

And, with data showing our cars sit parked up 95% of the time, what will be the point in us all owning our own vehicles? If ownership persists in the future, surely we could share one, with a scheduling system working out the vehicle’s availability to suit our needs? Or, if this has logistical limitations, perhaps we will own shares in a fleet of cars large enough that one is always available to meet our needs.

Continental is prepared

Continental is preparing for this future by investing in technologies such as the CUbE and BEE – on-demand autonomous vehicle solutions that will take people wherever they want to go. The CUbE vehicle already exists, and is set to take to the streets of Frankfurt for real-world trials.

Businesses will be impacted, too. Continental is also looking at how this seismic shift will shape the commercial sector in future. Its ‘Fleet Management’ concept is researching how things like car sharing will change attitudes towards vehicle ownership. Will hauliers still need their lorries, or will they call on-demand vehicles which can then be loaded up, with robots ensuring their cargo gets to its destination, overwatched by all-seeing all-knowing AI?

These changes will affect all of us that need to drive as part of our jobs. If you’re a sales rep, do you pay or contribute towards the cost of your CUbE, or does your business pay for it? What will replace company car tax?

And, on a personal level, how will this impact public transport when the concept of a bus (get picked up, board a vehicle shared by others, get driven to where we want to go) becomes the norm with our cars of the future too? Will we need railways and buses when, effectively, everyone’s cars have been replaced by a form of public transport? What about taxi companies?

Questions generating answers

None of us can predict the future. But the questions we ask at least make us think about it in a way that we may not have considered before. From those questions, we begin to see possibilities. And from possibilities comes a vision. This is at the heart of Continental’s operation today.