By Lauren Ferrone
Published: Friday, February 22, 2019
If you’ve ever panicked after misplacing your keys or forgetting where you parked, you can probably imagine just how hard it’d be to get around without cars – or would it?
If people living in 1820 got by using just horses and carriages, surely we can survive without our trusty cars. Here’s the surprising news: plenty of us already are.
According to University of South Australia researcher Akshay Vij, there’s been a gradual decrease in how often we use our vehicles.
Why? Because of popular ride-sharing services like Uber.
But it’s not just ride sharing.
Car sharing apps which allow people to search and book available vehicles at different pick-up locations are emerging as key transport players around Australia.
Even car makers like BMW are operating car-sharing services in North America and Europe, and General Motors plans to start using self-driving cars developed in-house.
The movement prompted a new survey led by Mr Vij and co-sponsored by RAA, which looked at the role of car sharing services, and posed the question: could this be the future of transport in Australia?
The online survey was taken by 4000 Australians and revealed their willingness to give up their cars for alternative transport.
Findings showed younger adults are already delaying buying a car of their own and choosing to hop into Ubers instead.
What’s more, between 2001 and 2016, vehicle kilometres travelled nationwide decreased by six per cent per capita.
What does the future of transport look like?
The concept of catching a ride in someone else’s vehicle is simple. You can get to where you need to be quickly, parking is taken care of, and the associated costs of owning your own car are non-existent.
While Mr Vij’s research touches on ride sharing, it focuses more heavily on a model of transport called ‘mobility as a service’, or MaaS.
The service would run via a smartphone app where people can plan their route and select desired modes of transport, and then choose their preference of payment – either pay-as-you-go or pre-paid.
Sharing is caring... for some
The percentage of respondents open to using car sharing services:
The concept was initially developed in Sweden under a monthly subscription model. Though the service was well received, it was discontinued due to lack of support at government level. It’s still relatively new globally and there’s currently no commercial MaaS service running in Australia.
Mr Vij predicts that will change in the next five or so years.
“The model is based on multi-modal transport. What that essentially means is getting to where you need to go by using several different modes of transport in the one trip.”
Are we ready to hang up the keys?
If you don’t do well on public transport, or you actually enjoy getting behind the wheel and hitting the open road, this might not be an ideal way for you to travel.
The research reveals that, depending on where you live, you’re either going to benefit from multimodal transport or you’re not.
“Inner-city neighbourhoods, by virtue of their centrality, will always enjoy a higher degree of connectivity, and will almost always be less dependent on cars,” Mr Vij says.
Not for everyone
Only this number of people over 65 would use a car sharing service:
Unfortunately, residents in regional and rural areas aren’t as blessed geographically.
“They’d be better serviced by a shared fleet of autonomous vehicles at a fraction of the cost of existing community transport programs that are heavily subsidised by the government.”
Once we have autonomous vehicles, all bets are off. There will be massive reductions in private car ownership all round.
That said, cars will always serve the purpose of helping people get to places.
“I guess the question is: to what extent will alternative means of transport substitute private car ownership?”
Mr Vij adds that private ownership will still likely appeal to niche segments, such as families with young children.
How often do you drive your car?
On average, privately owned cars sit idle this much of the time:
What RAA predicts
RAA’s Vehicle Running Costs Report last year showed the cost to run even the cheapest car on the market had broken through the $100 per week barrier for the first time.
But are pricey running costs enough for motorists to hang up their car keys?
Not quite yet, but RAA’s motoring expert Mark Borlace agrees there’ll be fewer car owners in the future.
“People underestimate how much it costs to own and run a car,” Mr Borlace says.
“If it means saving on petrol and all of the other nitty gritty car costs, I predict more people will be excited to embrace new ways of getting from A to B.”