Car 24/7, where are you?
IT’S the end of the car as we know it. The car industry is bracing for a not-too-distant future when some cars won’t have engines, others won’t need drivers and thousands won’t belong to individual buyers.
Volkswagen says its ID concept, a Golf-sized electric- powered hatch, may become the first of a new breed of cars people won’t buy.
“Young urbanites are saying goodbye to owning a car and redefining what mobility means for them,” says VW Group chief executive Matthias Muller.
“In future, many people will no longer own a car. But they can all be a Volkswagen customer in one way or another — because we will serve a much broader concept of mobility than is the case today,” he says.
Mercedes-Benz chairman Dr Dieter Zetsche says this could involve a self-driving car picking up your laundry while you’re at work, having parcels delivered to its boot, then picking you up to go home.
The brand now has Europe’s largest ride-hailing service, with a fleet of electric cars racking up 35 million kilometres.
Zetsche says the next big step “with huge potential” is peer-to-peer car sharing through a website similar to the popular home sharing site B2B. It already has a pilot program in the US and will start another in Europe next month.
“Cars sit parked for nearly 23 hours a day on average. Why not use this time to earn some money for their owners?”
He envisages a set-up where you photograph your car, post it online and enter free dates and times. Thousands of online members then can unlock and drive it using a smartphone app.
The motoring revolution won’t end there. Cars will share information, for example on free parking spaces and potential hazards.
They’ll also be able to drive themselves much sooner than some predict. Audi board member Dietmar Voggenreiter says the new A8 due next year will handle the bumper-tobumper commute while the driver, with hands free, reads or uses the smartphone — provided authorities allow it.
The tech will work at up to 65km/h. On detecting a potential hazard or emergency, the car alerts the driver, who then must take the wheel.
Voggenreiter says an autonomous car would be safer than one manned by a human. “More than 90 per cent of accidents are caused by human faults so the forecast is accident number would go down.”
That in turn would mean cheaper insurance premiums and Audi would take legal responsibility for driver safety.
Motor show predictions are notoriously optimistic but one thing is certain: the car your children drive will be drastically different to the one you drive.
Peer-to-peer pooling the next step: Mercedes chief Dieter Zetsche with Generation EQ