By Simon Rose
The pandemic has brought many changes to our daily lives, some of which may be temporary and others permanent. I drove my car considerably less in the last eighteen months, restricting myself to essential trips and so on, but of course still had to register the car, have insurance, maintain the vehicle, and buy fuel, even when the vast majority of the time the car wasn’t being used. Like you, I’ve always assumed that car ownership is an integral part of my life. However, what if that wasn’t the case? What if car ownership, at least in the way that people all over the world have become so accustomed to, became a thing of the past? Hard to imagine, isn’t it? And yet this is the concept behind Transportation as a Service, also known as TaaS.
So what exactly is this idea that would have revolutionary implications for the automobile industry, but also for car repair shops, oil change specialists, insurance companies, and of course just about every adult on the planet that drives their own car around. With TaaS, people rent vehicles or buy trips when they need to make them, instead of owning a car. Companies like Uber and Lyft are already providing these kinds of services, where another person drives us around. However, even this will change in the future, once self-driving vehicles become more widely available.
Most cars sit idle the vast majority of the time, whether parked at a person’s home or at their workplace. Four-seat vehicles also only have one person in them most of the time, which is hardly efficient. TaaS cars and other vehicles operate twenty-four hours a day and are used far more often than a person currently uses their own car. In a year, a person spends thousands of dollars on a car for fuel, maintenance, repairs, insurance, registration fees, and possibly car payments if it’s a brand new vehicle. People could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars by moving to TaaS, rather than owning their means of transportation. The concept provides more free time if you’re not doing the driving on your commute. On the journey, you have the opportunity to read, study, engage in one of your favourite pastimes, take classes, or whatever you’d like to do if you’re not focusing on the road. This revolutionary concept can reduce the number of people actually owning cars. More people will have access to transport without having to own and maintain a vehicle.
A lot less people will be buying car insurance, which will have a major impact on the insurance industry. This will intensify if self-driving vehicles become more common in the coming decades. With fewer cars on the road there will be a lot less demand for parking lots and garages. If people stop owning cars and simply use a vehicle for a trip, then use another one when they next need to travel somewhere, there won’t be any need for parking spaces at all, or at least there’ll be a lot less of them. It will be interesting to see what happens to these spaces and structures, especially in city centres, once they’re no longer needed as parking areas. In the long term this may be part of how governments change their concept of the downtown core, as companies downsize, move to smaller premises, or have no downtown office at all. Whatever happens next in our constantly changing world, it seems clear that TaaS is likely to be one of our transportation options in the years ahead.