Ross: What about the War on Drivers in Seattle?
You’ve likely heard of Seattle’s war on cars. Folks around Seattle have complained about it for years as parking spaces go away and roads go on diets.
But have you heard of War on Drivers? It’s being waged on a national scale.
“Cars are not going away,” noted KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross. “But the car owner – that’s another thing.”
Dave pointed out that forces are conspiring to chip away at car ownership. Uber is now partnering with a taxi company to help with selling rides via an app. An Uber spokesperson told the media this week that “it seems like strange bedfellows at first, it actually makes a lot of sense to us when we looked into it. We don’t see true competition being mirrors (similar businesses), we don’t see our true competition being the taxi industry. We see our true competition as being car ownership.”
Meanwhile, Ford Motor Company — a giant in the car industry — is switching lanes into the autonomous vehicle market. It’s a move that some experts have predicted will come as the market shifts away from personal car ownership. Ford is currently testing the driverless cars in Miami to deliver packages for Walmart and pizzas for Domino’s. The company hopes to have the self-driving product ready for the market by 2021. The goal is to have customers — former drivers — hail a self-driving car with an app.
Former General Motors Charmian Bob Lutz has even publicly said that companies like Uber and Lyft will take over the transportation market with self-driving cars. The vehicles themselves will be branded “Toyota” or “Ford,” but they will be operated by rideshare companies. Lutz says “we are approaching the end of the automotive era,” and that within 20 years, most people won’t be driving their personal cars anymore.
Ford has also gotten into the rideshare market, and bought the scooter-share company Spin. The company’s goal is to have customers hail a self-driving car with an app (which is what Waymo is gearing up to do in Arizona by the end of the year). Ford’s brand and marketing director Amy Marentic said that the company is disrupting its own business model to do all this.
“We’re looking at fewer cars and better ideas,” she told CBS.
Fight the War on Drivers
The industry is leaning more and more to a future where people buy transportation services, not cars — no car ownership in favor of driverless taxi rides. As Lyft co-founder and president John Zimmer recently said, Lyft is dedicated to “reducing the need for personal car ownership by providing reliable and affordable ways to move around our cities.”
But it’s never going to happen, according to KIRO Radio traffic reporter Chris Sullivan.
“Garbage,” he told Dave. “Garbage. So Uber gets a car, you don’t — not happening. Sorry.”
“Let’s address the real issue here,” he added. “Uber and Lyft has added to the congestion, overwhelmingly, in the City of Seattle and other major cities. And it has cut into transit use. So in their grand vision of reducing congestion, they have added thousands and thousands of more cars and trips that would have been taken on transit.”
Indeed, NPR reports that the influence of rideshare companies has encouraged customers to pay for the convenience of Uber and Lyft over the bus. Some even take trips that they may not have taken otherwise. That means more cars on the road to accommodate that need. Seattle is one of the top cities where such trips occurred. Nationally, the companies “transported 2.61 billion passengers in 2017, a 37 percent increase from 1.90 billion in 2016,” according to a study on the issue.
“They are part of the problem right now, in my mind,” Sullivan said. “It’s convenient, I get it. But I don’t like the idea that they get a car and we don’t.”
Also, 94 percent of car owners report that they will not give up their personal vehicles.
Sullivan also doesn’t trust driverless technology yet and feels that concern is going to deter people from adopting the driverless systems quickly.