Driving Into the Future

By Jake T. Erlendson on March 9, 2015
Categories: TIPS & TRICKS

One of the biggest household expenses that Americans face is covering the cost of their vehicles.

The average American family owns 2.1 cars. The maintenance costs to keep these vehicles running, the Department of Motor Vehicle fees, the insurance expenses and, of course, the cost of buying multiple vehicles can crush a family’s budget.

But what if you only needed one car to get around? It could make a significant difference financially.

The possibility of Americans shedding millions of their cars is the subject of a new study that two researchers,Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak, at theUniversity of Michigan Transportation Research Institute recently wrote. Specifically the professors looked at the potential impact that driverless cars would have on society.

The researchers suggested that the need for two or more cars in a family could plunge because most households have very little trip overlap. In other words, there are few periods when two people in the same household are driving cars at the same time. On an average day, according to the study, nearly 84% of households had no trips that overlapped.

A driverless car would reduce the need for multiple vehicles because it could transport someone to work, for instance, and then return home by itself so other family members could use it.

In their most extreme analysis, the researchers projected that driverless cars would reduce average vehicle ownership rates by 43%.

Of course, shedding your vehicles may not save any money. For starters, we don’t know how much these sophisticated driverless cars will cost. What’s more, if a car needs to be on the road picking up different drivers, rather than, for example, remaining in a workplace parking lot all today, the total mileage could rise.

The shift could result in a 75% increase in individual vehicle usage – from 11,661 to 20,406 miles per vehicle, according to the report. And the academics noted that this did not reflect the additional miles generated during return-to-home trips.

Another unknown is when Americans will be able to buy driverless cars. Google has spent years developing driverless technology and traditional automakers like General Motors, Ford and Toyota aim to make driverless cars mainstream by 2020.

At least four states, including California and Michigan, currently allow driverless cars on their roads.

It should be fun to see what happens next.

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