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PHOTO CAPTION: Interior of Mercedes-Benz F 015 autonomous concept electric car.

Autonomous Cars: Fewer Vehicles, More Miles

The University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute projects that the advent of self-driving vehicles will cut car ownership by as much as 43 percent.

Published: 18-Feb-2015

UMTRI researchers Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak recently analyzed the revised edition of the 2009 U.S. National Household Travel Survey in the light of the advent of self-driving, autonomous vehicles and came to some interesting conclusions, one that is likely to trouble carmakers.

Schoettle and Sivak looked at how and when cars are used in multi-vehicle households and "on an average day, nearly 84 percent of households had no trips that overlapped or conflicted." What this usage pattern suggests is that a self-driving automobile could, in most instances, provide transportation services for more than just one family member. In effect, the researchers envision, the autonomous car delivers one family member to, say, their workplace, and then returns home to be available for use by other family members. The car is then dispatched, again autonomously, back to the workplace to pickup the breadwinner.

The net effect, is that vehicle ownership could drop as much as 43 percent in this scenario, as families ditch the need for a second vehicle. It would also mean that the total miles driven would also increase from an estimated 11,661 to 20,406 annual miles, an increase of 75 percent.

This, of course, assumes that these self-driving car are privately owned. If, as EV World's editor in chief suggests, they are collectively owned as part of public transit networks or private vehicle share systems, then the total miles each vehicle may travel would increase, as in the example of the Rinspeed Micromax shuttle van, but the number of personal vehicles owned could drop significantly. This may be what Apple is working on as part of their rumored 'Titan" electric vehicle project.

In related news, Mercedes-Benz demonstrated their self-driving F 015 concept car by driving it down the Las Vegas Strip during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show. Here's video of that event.

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