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We Won't Drive Our Cars: The Future Of Automotive Transportation


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Published on - 09-Sep-2015 05:42 am

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Earlier this summer, Trinity had the pleasure of hosting a Transportation Tech dinner with some of the brightest minds in the space, including Uber's lead data scientist, Lyft's leader of operations strategy, RelayRides’ head of marketing, and the CEOs of ZIRX, MileIQ, Chariot, and Automatic.

While the conversation led to many interesting conclusions, the discussion can be summed up in large part by one unifying insight:

Transportation tech is not only changing how we get from A to B, it's fundamentally altering the underlying infrastructure of our cities.

This observation led to several bold predictions on what the future of transportation holds in store. Here's a list of the Top 5:

Uber will eventually build a centrally-controlled, all-electric, autonomous vehicle fleet
New modes of transit with dynamic routing will reduce overall vehicle ownership and alter urban development patterns
Gas stations will disappear due to reduced vehicle ownership and electrification, forcing a restructuring of our gas distribution system
The commercial parking industry will consolidate and decline, disrupted by on-demand parking models like ZIRX that aggregate demand
Connected car startups will bring increasing amounts of vehicle data online leading to safer, cheaper, and more efficient transportation

Since the late 19th century, the invention of automobiles, airplanes, subways, and other new forms of transportation have profoundly shaped where and how we live. Cars led to suburban flight by enabling longer commutes, while modern transit systems helped facilitate a more recent wave of urbanization.

This brings us to the 21st century, where the confluence of ridesharing, electrification, connected cars, and autonomous vehicles promise to give rise to an entirely new transportation paradigm. Together, these factors are likely to reduce car ownership, consolidate fueling and parking infrastructure, and lead to a more dynamic, interconnected transit system capable of supporting increasingly dense populations in urban centers. This transition will create opportunities for entrepreneurs with bright ideas for how to improve transportation on multiple dimensions.

Many in tech proclaimed 2014 "The Year of Uber." In 12 months, the ridesharing juggernaut expanded from 66 to 266 cities, from 29 to 53 countries, served 140 million rides, and raised $3 billion in new funding en route to a $40 billion valuation. It also rolled out UberPool, making transportation even more affordable for users willing to share their ride. Meanwhile, Lyft scaled to 60 cities and racked up $332.5 million, reaching a $1 billion valuation and slashing prices on its own Lyft Line carpooling service.

Uber's meteoric rise has attracted international competitors, with Hailo, Didi Kuaidi, GrabTaxi,Gett, and EasyTaxi flooding into the European, Asian, South American, and African markets. Despite ongoing regulatory disputes, Uber and its horde of fast followers are rapidly overturning the traditional taxi industry and expanding the market for point-to-point urban transportation in the process. As these companies grow, more urban dwellers will forgo the high costs of owning and maintaining a car.

Meanwhile, declining vehicle ownership opens up possibilities for complimentary business models. Companies like RelayRides expand vehicle access by letting people without cars rent from neighbors, while startups like Chariot and Via make commuting easier by offering busing and carpooling platforms that respond dynamically to commuter demand. Another recent, Scoop, goes even further by matching employees commuting from the same neighborhood to the same office park, removing the need for on-demand drivers entirely.

While other services like Lyft's precursor Zimride have failed to make this model work in the past, smartphones may have reached a point where true carpooling services can operate seamlessly in a way they never could before. This is evidenced by the fact that Lyft Line now accounts for a majority of Lyft’s business in SF, with UberPool gaining share rapidly.

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