“Peak Car”?

An article at Bloomberg caught my eye.  It was titled “This Is What Peak Car Looks Like“.

The automobile—once both a badge of success and the most convenient conveyance between points A and B—is falling out of favor in cities around the world as ride-hailing and other new transportation options proliferate and concerns over gridlock and pollution spark a reevaluation of privately owned wheels. Auto sales in the U.S., after four record or near-record years, are declining this year, and analysts say they may never again reach those heights. Worldwide, residents are migrating to megacities—expected to be home to two-thirds of the global population by midcentury—where an automobile can be an expensive inconvenience. Young people continue to turn away from cars, with only 26 percent of U.S. 16-year-olds earning a driver’s license in 2017, a rite of passage that almost half that cohort would have obtained just 36 years ago, according to Sivak Applied Research. Likewise, the annual number of 17-year-olds taking driving tests in the U.K. has fallen 28 percent in the past decade.

Meanwhile, mobility services are multiplying rapidly, with everything from electric scooters to robo-taxis trying to establish a foothold in the market. Increasingly, major urban centers such as London, Madrid, and Mexico City are restricting cars’ access. Such constraints, plus the expansion of the sharing economy and the advent of the autonomous age, have made automakers nervous. That’s also pushed global policymakers to consider the possibility that the world is approaching “peak car”—a tipping point when the killer transportation app of the 20th century finally begins a steady decline, transforming the way we move.

. . .

The tipping point worldwide will come at the end of the next decade, when self-driving cars start gaining traction, predicts Mark Wakefield, head of the automotive practice at consultant AlixPartners. Replacing a taxi driver with a robot cuts 60 percent from a ride’s cost, making travel in a driverless cab much cheaper than driving your own car. “The takeoff point is the robo-taxi,” Wakefield says. “By 2030 we have a pretty substantial amount of sales volume coming out [of vehicle sales] because of that.”

. . .

Electrified cars connected to the internet will enable cheap forms of mobility that will make owning an auto expensive and obsolete. “Before peak car, there’s going to be a peak in internal combustion engine vehicles,” says Colin McKerracher, head of advanced transport analysis for BNEF. “That will have a big effect on automakers’ strategies, because investment has a habit of chasing growth.”

Ultimately, individual car ownership will give way to having a mobility app on your phone, where an automobile is but one mode available, says Kersten Heineke, a McKinsey transportation specialist.

There’s more at the link.

That’s all fine and dandy for those who are prepared to accept the greater level of “Big Brother” control, and the loss of personal responsibility and independence, that such trends will inevitably bring with them.  To me, they’re deeply troubling, based on my own life experience.  A few points (out of many more that could be made):

  1. What about avoiding or getting away from a disaster?  If a major hurricane were to threaten your neighborhood, or flooding, or an earthquake or volcanic eruption or other natural disaster, how will you get away from the danger zone without transport under your control?  What’s that?  You’ll trust City Hall to take care of you?  That’s a good one!  Tell that to the New Orleans residents who waited to be evacuated before Hurricane Katrina . . . in vain.  In a disaster, Big Brother will do what’s easiest for Big Brother – and that is to control your movements, and force you to stay where you are, or go to where he can control your movements and your destiny.  Independence is the last thing on Big Brother’s mind.  If he finds it more convenient to restrict or even eliminate voluntary travel at any time, he can and will do so – whether you like it or not.  You’ll be treated as a subject, rather than a citizen.
  2. What about a medical emergency?  It might not be something as time-critical as a heart attack or stroke, but if you need to get to a doctor or the emergency room, it might not be something that can wait for an ambulance to arrive (particularly given the time it takes for an ambulance to reach you, and then to reach a hospital).  If it happens during peak commuter traffic, the online services that will arrange a car to come to you (Uber, Lyft, and their ilk) will be fully occupied serving those heading to or from work.  They’re unlikely to have a car available for you in the short term.  If you and/or your family don’t have your own transport available, that delay might kill you.
  3. What about shopping trips for large, bulky or unwieldy items?  Just yesterday I went to a hardware store, where I had two 8’x4′ plywood sheets cut into 48″x18″ shelves, to replace the cheap, flimsy fiberboard provided with two shelving units I bought recently.  I slid them into my SUV and brought them home with no trouble at all.  Could they have fit into the average small-to-medium-size car or SUV offered by Uber or Lyft?  I doubt it – and even if they could, would the driver have been willing to take them in his vehicle, causing delays to load and unload them, and leaving splinters, dirt and debris on his carpeted floor?  I doubt it.  Without your own transport to collect such items, you’ll end up paying a lot more for a commercial delivery service to do so.
  4. What about choice of transportation?  At present, a parent can always take a child to school if they miss the school bus.  What if they don’t have transport available to do so?  Can they afford to hire a car to take their child to school?  What about their child’s safety?  Not all drivers of such vehicles are trustworthy, as news reports frequently bear out.  What if the parent(s) have already hired such (a) vehicle(s) to get themselves to work, and now have to make arrangements from the back seat via cellphone, while their child stands out in wind and weather waiting for a solution to arrive?

For all these reasons and more, I regard the decline in personal vehicle ownership as potentially very negative indeed.  Of course, those willing to surrender a measure of personal independence and rely on others for essential transportation will disagree:  but I’m not them.  As long as I can afford it, I’ll have some means of personal transportation available, under my own control rather than Big Brother’s.  I’d feel naked without it.



  1. What about those of us who don't live in a metropolitan area? I live a good 30 miles from the nearest Walmart. And you couldn't pay me enough to move to a city or even a suburb.

  2. Hey Peter;

    First off, I blame the enviroweenies for part of this, they have poisoned generations of kids about the EEEVVVils of car ownership and how it is hurting the planet. The same people have no compunction about shoving themselves into megacities where they have their movement controlled willingly"For the public good".
    There was a movie made in 1981 that starred "Lee Majors" called "The Last Chase". It was not a critical success, but it had Burchess Meredith in it and at the end, Meredith character had a rant about cars…and it was telling even back then and what it meant.

  3. "RoboCar"….that's a good one. What will the self-driving car do when it meets black ice? Or slush from the road blocks its camera-holes? (Or radar-holes)?

    And as Poodle implies, there's a big difference between NYC, Chicago, ATL, SFO (etc) and the rest of the world, for which 'self-driver cars,' and 'Uber' are near useless.

  4. Contradicting the article's underlying assumptions, there's growing evidence that Millenials, as the jobs away from city cores open up with the growing economy, are taking the opportunity in droves to move away from the cities to the suburbs, and to the midwest and south. Places where they need and want their cars.

    Because cities are fun when you're young, single, and childless. They're the opposite of fun for raising kids or trying to own your home. Many young millenials moved to the cities, just like GenX did, but with the lousy "summers of recovery" under Obama, they couldn't afford to leave… leading urban planners and progressives to mistake 'the way things currently are' for 'the inevitable arrow of history.'

    Also, when you look at the number of teenagers getting driver's licenses, remember the cratering of the teen employment between 'summer of recovery' and the minimum wage hikes, as well as all the restricted-hour child labour laws that make hiring teenagers an over-regulated, expensive affair compared to over-18 labour. Then look at the effects of Obama's "Cash for Clunkers" wiping out the low end used car market, and skyrocketing the price of used vehicles. The $500 clunkers that teenagers could keep rattling along with paychecks from McDonalds are gone, along with the jobs to keep them running.

    As for the other major pathway to teenage car ownership – getting mom & dad's old car while mom or dad gets a new one – that, too, has been seriously crimped by the price of cars, and by the economy. So without something to drive, the push for immediate licensing will, inevitably, go down. That doesn't mean they don't want cars and freedom – but it means that right now, more teenagers aren't overcoming the hurdles to their first car at 16.

    But as the economy gets better, more jobs open in the midwest and the south, and each year more used cars come on the market to fill the gaping hole the government made, this will change. What is happening right now is neither the way it has always been, nor the way it will always be.

  5. The big part of that article was the "mega cities" part. 75% of the worlds billions in a city somewhere…

    When someone talks of evacuating I think back to Katrina and the photos of the huge parking lots that were the Houston evacuation….

    It was pointed out that robots don't have to be better than the human they replace they just need to make fewer mistakes.

    When the people & the money are in the mega cities smaller towns & rural areas will have to learn to deal with the change.

  6. This neatly falls into the agenda 21 plan for mega cities, buffer zones then areas we aren't allowed in. . Just herd the little sheeple into shiny convenient mega cities (modern concentration camps, IMHO)

  7. This assumes that self-driving technology develops as these people predict. I am skeptical of self-driving technology in the near future.

  8. The Planners have been pushing this vision since the middle of the 20th Century, at latest, and they have NEVER been able to make it work. The new 'robot car' technology will be just another technology the Planners don't understand well enough to use. As for ride-hailing; the Planners will kill that dead by over-regulating, if they are allowed to. They can't really help themselves. It's practically in their DNA.

    Furthermore, self-driving cars are a disaster waiting to happen. Everything will be fine until the day that, for not readily apparent reason, 6000 copies of the same model suddenly decide to turn left across traffic and run into a divider.

  9. One factor in the lack of new licenses for teens is that obtaining a driving license automatically raises the parent's auto insurance costs. Unless the child has their own vehicle, the family can't claim the child doesn't use the household ones.

    BTW, not all states issue driving licenses at 16. IIRC, some start at 17, so this may affect that statistic.

    Lots of wishful thinking in that article. Most all directed toward the Left's dream of herding humanity into concentrated locations and restricting the unwashed masses from accessing nature, to be followed by reducing the total number of humans despoiling the world.

    Anytime you hear them spout off about "Peak" this or that, it is code for something they don't like and want to restrict or eliminate.

  10. Let them try to pry the steering wheel from my cold, dead hands. I have a van to move the Circus Beanus, wife, electric wheelchair, service dog, me, ramp for wc and dog and that's without stuff from the store. I don't know any lyft/uber/ride share service that will handle my needs.

    Well, since the proggies want me and mine dead anyways, maybe this is part of their evil plan.

  11. undoubtedly part of the evil plan, often pushed by the well meaning but foolish shills for the evil overlords

  12. Up here in North Maine, the first thing that self driving car will want to do is make me stay home from the 100 mile drive to the nearest city for business on that day that questionable weather is forecast.
    I'll do my own driving, thank you.

  13. With vaccine mandates ( including for adults ) coming on stream, I have to wonder about the advisability of the young ( including my son ) having a license if subject to different incapacities of mind, nerves, and bodies. The reason I think this has a lot to do with being a heretic and figuring that if kids are immunized with 73 shots they are being exposed to 73 chances of a vaccine reaction – and complaints (oversight ) are unwelcome. Electric cars are not going to be on my list for transportation in the deep cold – no matter that they are likely fun and cheap to drive in the city. The failure of the Aptera is a signal that there is no drive to make lighter and cheaper alternative transportation available for the daily commute, no matter no how much sense a lightweight alternative might seem to be.

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