Autonomous cars, from "ownership" to "usage": how autonomous vehicles might corrupt automotive industry's business model

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, São Paulo - Brasil (2018)


autonomous vehicles, car-sharing, mobility-as-a-service


The adoption of autonomous vehicles (AVs) on a global scale, which forecasts from automotive industry and researches indicate sometime in the 2020 or 2030 decades, will impact not only traffic and transportation matters (LITMAN, 2017) but, as a disruptive technology, will also modify the way consumers understand how they relate with their autos (FAGNANT & KOCKELMAN 2015) in an industry that hasn't been faced drastic changes since its creation, the automotive one (BURNS, JORDAN & SCARBOROUGH, 2013).
In the past few decades, auto manufacturers that used to focus their investment in mechanical, design and performance related characteristics of its products (like their power or electronic accessories) are foreseeing a potential business model change, not only tied to environmental and safety requirements (which will demand higher efficiency of a particular vehicle, a fleet and, ultimately, the transportation ecosystem as a whole), but also, at the moment, looking at a vehicle as a computational platform (GAO, HENSLEY & ZIELKE, 2014). It's accepted that the car of the future will be connected, able to communicate with other vehicles and running under an intelligent road infrastructure (PERKOLA, 2017), what will make cars to move from mechanical metal box to be considered as a technological components' integrators part of an interconnected mobile network (GERTLA et al, 2014; ATZORI et al, 2015).
Concomitantly, technology is about to automatize an activity that, for over a century, was an exclusive responsibility of a human being: to drive (FAGNANT & KOCKELMAN, 2015; BUNGHEZ, 2015). If well succeeded on reaching the mass market, this technology has the potential to drastically change people and cargo transportation model, not only because its impact goes beyond the mobility sphere, but also because, within it, several elements, such as parking spaces and roads' planning should be reviewed to accommodate mobile vehicles that will respond to a planned rule, less flexible, but more predictable, that its human versions). Its popularization, however, will depend on a transparent autonomous navigation capabilities' development, fluid behavior when dodging obstacles and the understanding of the enormous variety of semantic information that AVs' sensors generate (OHN-BAR & TRIVEDI, 2016).
The possibility of a door-to-door travel - without detours or the need to comply with an specific route to attend pre-designed routes, like buses or subways -, a broader coverage - especially on locations where public transportation system is not well distributed -, together with the comfort provided by and individual transportation model, have been the restraints for customers to abandon a dedicated transportation system (currently represented by private cars) for the benefit of collective transportation models, known more efficient in terms of energy consumption, total cost of transportation and environmental impact, among other benefits. AVs should merge the practicality of door-to-door travels with the ownership cost reduction through what Morgan & Stanley (2015) calls Shared Autonomy.
Among rational and/or emotional reasons why one own a car (STEG, 2004; NEIL, 2015) the functional usage of a vehicle will be the most impacted, reinforcing a trend initiated with taxis, going through transportation services (like Uber or Cabify) and car-sharing services (ZazCar, Zipcar, among others): the migration from cars' ownership to the usage of individual transportation systems/services, soon to be, autonomous. This theoretical paper analyses the variables that endorse this trend.

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