Hundreds of millions of cars off the road and autonomous trucks on the road in 10 years?

November 15, 2018

Tyson Fisher


I have been covering autonomous vehicles for a few years now, and I have found only one thing to be certain: Uncertainty of a timeline. Time frames for AV domination range from less than 10 years to nearly half a century. Let’s explore the two latest predictions.

Hundreds of millions of vehicles off the road by 2030

YourMechanic, a mobile car repair and maintenance service startup company out of Silicon Valley, recently released its predictions for the future of vehicles in general. Good news: fewer cars on the road. Bad news: it will happen very soon.

According to an infographic supplied by YourMechanic, the digitization of cars will have a disruptive impact on car ownership. Ride sharing such as Uber and Lyft plays a major role in this.

YourMechanic predicts that one out of 10 cars sold globally in 2030 will potentially be a shared vehicle. Meaning, 10 percent of cars sold in 2030 will be used in some capacity by someone other than the registered owner, not including friends and family members. In 2016, 38 percent of Americans used ride-sharing services. That jumped to more than half of Americans in 2017. People are getting more comfortable with the idea of hailing an Uber than ever before.

There’s also a thing called car subscriptions. Several OEMs are offering a monthly subscription service that essentially allows members to rent a vehicle indefinitely. For example, at a little more than $1,000 a month, you can drive a BMW using its Access service.

BMW will deliver the car to your home, and monthly subscriptions include insurance, maintenance, taxes/fees and upkeep. For a $200 convenience fee, you can pause the membership for whatever reason. Cadillac, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche offer similar subscriptions. Essentially, this is an alternative to owing or leasing a vehicle.

In 2015, the percentage of households that did not own a car increased for the first time since 1960. YourMechanic cites an article that suggests there will be only 44 million passenger vehicles on the road by 2030. Compare that to the 247 million vehicles projected by 2020, and we’re talking about an entirely different kind of infrastructure.

Autonomous trucks within 10 years

Recently, the International Road Transport Union released a report regarding autonomous trucks. If you’re not familiar with IRU, it’s basically an international association upholding the interests of all things global transport, including trucks, taxis and buses.

In the report, more than three-quarters of transport companies surveyed expect autonomous trucks to become a viable option on the roads within the next decade. It’s worth noting that only three regions were surveyed: Europe, Asia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (six Middle East countries). Nearly 30 percent believe autonomous trucks will hit the roads in the next five years.

A few problems here. Starting with the obvious, the United States is omitted from this survey. This is not addressed in the report, but one could speculate why this is the case. Regardless of the motive, the geographical difference is enough to keep the U.S. out. By this I mean the fact that the U.S. is huge in comparison to nearly every country surveyed. In other words, what is viable in small area like the U.K. or Germany may not be viable for a long-haul trucker in the U.S.

Anyone who believes that autonomous trucks will be here soon must be thinking from a global perspective.

Sure, electric vehicles and other trucks on the cutting edge of technology can thrive in Europe, but the U.S. landscape renders such trucks virtually useless for long-haul applications. If we’re talking short-haul or regional domestically, then there’s a better argument to be made. But long-haul truckers? Human drivers aren’t going anywhere soon,

Second, the report never defines “autonomous.” In the U.S., there are five levels of autonomous vehicles, ranging from adaptive cruise control to self-driving vehicles without the need of a steering wheel. Since this isn’t well-defined, the interpretation of the report’s data can vary widely.

In the end, no one really knows what’s going to happen with vehicles in the near or distant future. Extremist views suggest 200 million vehicles off the road in 10 years and “autonomous” trucks on the road in five to 10 years. The other extreme suggests business as usual for decades to come. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, which means truckers in the U.S. should not worry about being replaced by artificial intelligence in the foreseeable future.