Driverless cars could signal the end of vehicle ownership

6th July 2016
Daisy Stapley-Bunten


The predicted arrival of fully-autonomous cars could signal the end of traditional vehicle ownership as we know it. A new survey carried out by used car specialists HPL Motors has found that one in four Britons would sell their vehicle in favour of signing up for a driverless car subscription.

  • 24% of Britons would trade in their vehicle and join a driverless car subscription scheme
  • Younger people are the most likely to embrace a driverless car membership programme
  • This comes 10 years before fully-autonomous cars are expected to hit our roads
  • HPL Motors MD says we mustn’t underestimate people’s passion for their cars

It is thought that the growing popularity of car share initiatives - where people save money (and the environment) by sharing their journey with others - coupled with the ongoing development of driverless car technology, could revolutionise motoring.

Although the majority of respondents (76%) in the HPL Motors survey said they wouldn’t sacrifice their own car in order to join a pay-as-you-go service straight away, the point that a quarter of people would already entertain the notion - a decade before fully-driverless cars are expected to hit the roads - is noteworthy.

Experts at Thatcham Research believe that fully-autonomous cars could be available by 2025, and recent news reports have suggested that driverless vehicle subscription schemes could feasibly become a reality.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, tech-savvy 18-24-year-olds are the most receptive to the idea, with 34% of this age group stating that they would join a driverless car membership scheme. At the other end of the scale, 35-44-year-olds are the least likely to embrace this new way of getting around (only 18% would part with their own car).

Commenting on the findings, HPL Motors Managing Director Jonathan Herman said: “It’s hard to argue that driverless cars won’t be the biggest disruptor that the motoring industry has ever encountered. We’re already seeing an upturn in the popularity of convenient car share schemes and the emergence of autonomous cars could completely overhaul the way we get from A to B,” he commented.

A recent study by What Car? found that one in four people - a similar number to those who are in favour of driverless subscription schemes - would be happy to sleep inside an autonomous car as it travelled along.

There are also environmental considerations to take into account, and it stands to reason that a subscription scheme of some description will reduce the number of vehicles on the roads. With fuel economy being such a big factor for motorists - we recently found that 53% of drivers say that fuel economy is still highly important to them when buying a new car - it’ll be interesting to see how the move towards semi and fully-autonomous cars impacts fuel consumption.

A separate study undertaken by IAM RoadSmart showed that 65% of motorists believe the driver should always be in control of a self-driving vehicle.

Jonathan added that while a lot of us like the idea of being chauffeured around by a driverless car, it’s clear that the majority are still largely sceptical about giving up control of the wheel.

“We’re likely to see more semi-autonomous driving systems being introduced in the coming years, and this might help to make the migration to fully-driverless cars more seamless. However, most people will still be extremely wary of completely relinquishing control of their vehicle.

“Also, we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that many of us actually enjoy driving. We’re passionate about cars and it’s hard to imagine a world where the majority of us don’t own a vehicle. For plenty of Britons, their car is their pride and joy.”

*A driverless car subscription package would take the form of a monthly subscription or pay-as-you-go model, whereby motorists request an autonomous car as and when they need one, rather than owning a vehicle outright.

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