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Private car ownership could drop 80 percent by 2030, new report predicts

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Analysts believe the future of city transit will be a network of shared electric cars

AP Driverless Car
Meet the future of urban transportation.
AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File

According to a new report examining technology and personal car ownership, city streets may soon be less crowded—a lot less crowded. Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030: The Disruption of Transportation and the Collapse of the ICE Vehicle and Oil Industries, suggests that the continued embrace of new technologies, and an eventual wholesale shift to autonomous vehicles, will lead to a sea change in car ownership and personal transportation, which will then have a ripple effect on cities and city planning.

With more and more people adopting ridehailing and ridesharing services, transportation as a service (TaaS) will become the norm, much faster than many mainstream analyses predict. The authors of the study—Tony Seba, co-founder of the RethinkX think tank and a Stanford Continuing Studies instructor and James Arbib, a technology investor and philanthropist—believe the embrace of a cheaper, more efficient way to get around will lead to a drop in private ownership. They predict the number of passenger vehicles on American roads will drop from 247 million in 2020 to 44 million in 2030, a nearly 80 percent reduction that will free up massive amounts of space in urban centers.

“We are on the cusp of one of the fastest, deepest, most consequential disruptions of transportation in history,” said Seba. “But there is nothing magical about it. This is driven by the economics.”

row of electric cars charging
The report predicts electric cars will become the backbone of a more distributed transportation system
Sopotnicki/Shutterstock

The study predicts that everyday Americans will ditch their cars in favor of a system of distributed electric vehicles, and reap the financial rewards. On a per-mile basis, using TaaS will be four to 10 times cheaper per mile than buying a new car by 2021, and widespread adoption of electric vehicles will lower maintenance costs. In their most rosy scenario, each family could save up to $5,600 per year.

“Clearly, the impact on parking will be enormous,” says Arbib. “One of the big issues is what do you do with that parking space, and what do you do with the land that you free up? But the other issue is, how do you build out he charging infrastructure? We see it as a system of hubs that charge cars centrally, so you don’t need charging points at home or at work. It won’t be diffused, more centralized. That has much more impact on real estate and parking garages.”

He believes parking will eventually be obsolete, so cities need to ditch the idea of parking minimums for new construction and rethink planning decisions and road infrastructure design.

This vision sounds extreme, but Seba has been proven right before with his predictions about both the solar energy market and the development of electric cars.