A couple of weeks ago I sent an email to John Gibbs, host of a new favorite YouTube program Dr. Know-It-All, commenting on a YouTube video that he posted. He had some thoughts about robo-taxis becoming the future predominant way for many of us to get around. You can read my comments in the article The Tesla Robo-Taxi Paradox.
John was kind enough to respond to my email. Below is what he had to say.
Great points here. The main thing I'd say is that I think most calculations (that show car ownership costs $.71/mile) assumes you buy a new car, rather than used. Now i am not saying at all here that the used market won't continue to thrive for a long time--and in fact ICE cars will be around for a long time via the used market. What I think is going to get smashed is the new car market.
Let's say I have these choices:
buy a new car and it costs me about 71 cents/mile over its lifetime (say 7 years)
"rent" robotaxis for around 25 cents/ mile for 7 years
buy an older car for somewhere around 30-40 cents/mile
I don't see myself buying a new car, given those economics, but I could certainly see myself buying a used car. Perhaps a beater car to use for hauling things. Or my primary work car that I keep a ton of junk in (so it's inconvenient to remove each day), or on and on.
There will be many edge cases, and if the cost comparison is close, I could see people wanting to hold onto their personal cars. What I can't see is most people volunteering to pay over double the cost of ride-hailing to own a car. Some will, of course, but most people will go with the cheaper option.
I agree that this puts a whole lot of clout in the hands of just a few companies, rather than us consumers, and that might not be a good thing, but we consumers do dumb things every day to save a buck. :)
Anyway, you do have valid counterpoints here. We need to set a calendar reminder to check back with each other in 5 years and see how it's going then!
John’s point – “What I can't see is most people volunteering to pay over double” – is a valid and interesting notion. It is an underlying tenet of his original video. It is a very good point. One that merits consideration.
If faced with the options, how many people will continue to pay more than DOUBLE the costs of purchasing a brand new vehicle (when including insurance, maintenance, etc.) versus just using a ubiquitous driverless ride-hailing service? If John is correct, and it comes to pass that mass numbers of people stop buying brand new cars, then it is only a matter of time before the secondary used car market will be decimated. Inexpensive cars will simply be unavailable. That could have some far-reaching implications.
I’m not so sure that will be such a good thing.
The trouble is, I’m unsure if there is or will be anything that any of us can do about it. The best we can hope for is that innovation and competition will give us choices we can live with. Choices that don’t urge us, almost compel us, to give up our rights of property. Choices that don’t enrich just the few. Let’s at least hope for that.
What do you think? Will driverless ride-hailing take over most of the miles driven? Would you still want to own a vehicle even if the annual cost was double that of using robo-taxi services?