Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from a longer piece posted this morning to Medium.
To own is to share
Our social future is necessarily influenced by the growing ubiquity of the sharing economy. From sharing homes to sharing cars, technology and our collaborative momentum are marking a cultural shift in how people think of ownership. What does it mean to own something? Must we own socially critical commodities in order to access them and reap their benefits? Increasingly, the answer is becoming, no, not necessarily.
The old, monolithic model of yore — that you own something that only you use — is starting to break down due to changing social paradigms, as well changes in costs and the economy.
And while I (along with the rest of the world) am electrified by this fundamental shift in social norms, it’s impractical to speak in absolutes about what the “future of transportation” looks like. My forecast is that it will be a diverse future, with three burgeoning vehicle ownership models that will harmoniously coexist in our rapidly evolving world, and that will directly affect future car designs and applications.
The status quo: Traditional ownership
The first ownership model is an iteration on the status quo. While it’s true that millennials are reassessing the cultural presumption that everyone must own a car, people will continue to buy cars. For one, owning a car is convenient — not everyone lives in an urban center and can easily benefit from public transportation and ridesharing. And what about parents? Ask any parent out there and they’ll extol the virtues of having their own on-the-go living room, complete with car seats and a basket of toys.
And since the Model T, people have loved and will continue to be captivated by cars. Owning and driving a car piques an emotional response in us — not only are we free and unfettered, coasting down the highway with the wind on our skin, but we feel invincible, powerful, and in control. The fact that we can travel 80 mph by our own volition, whenever and wherever we want, empowers us with control. And not control in the hubristic sense, but control in the sense that we’re not beholden to timetables, we don’t need to ask permission, we can just go. We’re in control of our own destiny, where we go, and how we get there…