Earlier this year, Uber announced that it would be testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh. While this is obviously not the first foray into self-driving vehicles—Google, Mercedes, and Tesla, among others, all have fairly public initiatives in this area—it IS the first instance of a self-driving car-sharing program. It sounds as though this is a test drive, so to speak, of the capabilities of such a vehicle, as well as an opportunity to address shortcomings in a safe way. All self-driving vehicles for Uber during this test phase are also equipped with a co-pilot, a human engineer who is intimately familiar with the structure and programming of the vehicle and is prepared to take over should there be any problems. In addition to these car-sharing tests, many auto makers themselves are adapting their business models to start planning for driverless vehicles. Experts estimate a fully independent self-driving vehicle is at least several years if not a decade away; still, it’s clear that initiatives such as this one from Uber are going to have a huge impact on the industry as a whole. After all, car-sharing already has a huge user base, with over 1.5 million people already utilizing such options in the Americas as of summer 2015.
But what does this mean to public transportation or even the car manufacturing industry as a whole?
Car Sharing: Uber, Car2Go and Beyond
Car sharing has already made a significant dent in the use of public transportation, previous car sharing services (like traditional taxis), and personal vehicles. As of 2014, San Francisco had seen a 65% drop in regular taxi use, directly coinciding with the wider implementation of Uber. A recent study out of University of California – Berkeley indicates that car sharing services, like Car2Go, are reducing pollution, reducing traffic, and helping to alleviate parking issues in cities. The study further showed that, with the increase of availability with car-sharing services, city-dwellers were more likely to sell vehicles just taking up space in their driveways and more likely to forego purchasing a new vehicle which would probably just do the same. Car manufacturers are going to have to consider changes like this when it comes to the vehicles they produce.
Personal Finance: Easier or Harder to Spend Recklessly?
In other fields, like personal finance, emerging trends are also having an enormous influence on traditional models. Applications allowing for mobile banking and for requesting and sending money are on their way to surpassing physical dollar bills, moving us ever closer to a cashless economy. (One expert even suggests that ATMs will soon be obsolete.) Venmo, Google Wallet, and Paypal are specifically designed for this purpose—even Snapchat and Facebook now have ways of easily sending and receiving money. A recent study suggests that mobile banking with real-time account updates can help people cut their spending by 16%. When you get an email notification any time you spend any money, it helps to bring home how much you might be spending. On the other hand, mobile technologies also make it much easier to spend your money at one touch, which may make it easier to spend recklessly.
The exact impact of these emerging trends on their already-established sectors has yet to be seen, but one thing is certain: the landscape will be changing, and we must all change with it or be left behind.