Self-driving cars could spell a major reduction in the number of vehicles a household needs.
A new study released today by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) suggests that self-driving cars could reduce vehicle ownership by 43 percent. The study, conducted by Michaek Sivak and Brandon Schoettle, shows that on average there are 2.1 vehicles per household, but that there weren’t any overlapping or conflicting trips in almost 84 percent of those households. Because of that, the study says autonomous vehicles with an unoccupied “return home” feature could dramatically reduce the need for multiple vehicles per household.
Some of the world’s largest automakers are engaged in an a race to develop and release autonomous vehicle technology, but vehicle manufacturers aren’t the only companies developing the technology. Last September, the California Department of Motor Vehicles issued its first permits for self-driving car testing on public roads. It issued 29 permits, of which Google took 25. Audi and Mercedes-Benz split the remaining four permits equally between them.
Ford is also currently developing self-driving vehicle technology. It, among other industry giants including Bosch, GM and Toyota, are conducting testing in a simulated city on the University of Michigan campus.
But the UMTRI study results also said its 43 percent estimate only represents an “upper-bound approximation of the maximum possible effects” that self-driving car adoption could have. The study wasn’t able to account for what would or would not constitute an acceptable gap between travel times for household members. The report also cited uncertainty in the timeline for self-driving vehicle implementation as a reason for labeling its results with the caveat.
Last January during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, Ford CEO Mark Fields said he expects self-driving cars to launch by 2020 and that he is focusing Ford’s efforts in hopes that the company will be the first to offer autonomous vehicles at the mass market level.