The majority of trips in ridesharing service Lyft will be in autonomous vehicles within five years.
That’s the word from Lyft co-founder and president John Zimmer in a blog he posted in Medium.
If that does come about, there will be plenty of free time of passengers to be entertained and marketed to while going from point A to point B.
Earlier this year, Lyft connected with General Motors, which decided to invest $500 million in the ride-sharing service.
This could be partly savvy investing or a strategically protective move on the part of the automaker. With annual sales revenue of more than $150 billion, General Motors has a lot to protect.
The Lyft leader argues that private car ownership will all but vanish in major U.S. cities by 2025. Zimmer suggests that when Internet-connected cars come along in full force, markets will change.
“When networked autonomous vehicles come onto the scene, below the cost of car ownership, most city-dwellers will stop using a personal car altogether,” says Zimmer.
Zimmer cites a few analogies to what he sees as the coming shift in automobile behaviors.
“Technology has redefined entire industries around a simple reality: you no longer need to own a product to enjoy its benefits,” says Zimmer. “With Netflix and streaming services, DVD ownership became obsolete. Spotify has made it unnecessary to own CDs and MP3s. Eventually, we’ll look at owning a car in much the same way.”
Owning a car will go the way of the DVD by 2025, according to Zimmer. Until then, during the next five to 10 years, he projects there will be both driver and driverless cars on the road, essentially a hybrid network.
The transition to autonomous driving will not occur overnight, says Zimmer.
“We are currently in the first of three phases, and will be until vehicles can be operated without any human intervention. The second, or hybrid period will be defined by a mix of limited capability autonomous vehicles operating alongside human-driven ones.
“At first, fully autonomous cars will have a long list of restrictions,” says Zimmer. “They will only travel at low speeds, they will avoid certain weather conditions and there will be specific intersections and roads that they will need to navigate around.
“As technology improves, these cars will be able to drive themselves in more and more situations. Hypothetically, Lyft could initially have a fleet of autonomous cars that completes rides under 25 miles per hour on flat, dry roads. Then, we could upgrade the fleet to handle rides under those same conditions, but at 35 miles per hour. Until every kind of trip can be completed by an autonomous car.”
As connected cars become more automated, opportunities will arise for brands and marketers, since the people in those cars will have less to do around the operation of the vehicle.
“There are many concepts for what the inside of self-driving cars will ultimately look like,” says Zimmer. “Will they have couches and TV screens? Will happy hour take place with friends on the ride back from work? When our children say, “Are we there yet?” will the car respond?”
The technology to make cars more automated and even self-driving is well underway on many fronts.
This doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a mass consumer desire craving such cars, as many readers have pointed out here in the past.
Meanwhile, Lyft is pushing this along, at least for its share-riding cars.
And then there’s Uber.