Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of joining my friend Andro Vrdoljak of Turo and STRATIM parent-company KAR Auction Services in addressing a room full of San Francisco Chamber of Commerce members on the future of auto tech. While we discussed a range of topics, the main theme that broke through was the unprecedented moment of change we’re witnessing in the auto industry.
I’ve synthesized my thoughts below on some of the key changes we’re seeing.
It’s never been a better time to be a consumer trying to get from Point A to Point B. We’re all aware of the monumental impact digitalization has had on our society. But what’s even more astounding to me is the number of apps and services at our disposal today to simply help people get from Point A to Point B. You can download Uber and Lyft of course, but you can also bypass traffic and cut your commute in half by traveling on two wheels using bike-share and scooter-rental apps. Still, car-sharing apps like Turo and Car2Go offer the promise of a car at a moment’s notice. This degree of consumer choice in transit is unprecedented – even when compared to just five years ago.
It’s also never been a better time to purchase a vehicle. For a consumer, it used to be that the only way to get a car was to go to a car dealership and select from a number of vehicles for which information was limited to your salesperson’s knowledge. That process has been turned upside down. Now, because of digitalization, you have a plethora of useful information at your fingertips when purchasing a vehicle – access to the history of the vehicle, the features of the vehicle, the price of the vehicle, and much more.
Getting your driver’s license is no longer a watershed moment. When many of us were younger, owning a car or getting the keys to a car was a big moment in our lives. For the first time, we could get from Point A to Point B on our own. With the explosion of alternatives to driving that offer a similar level of flexibility and freedom, young people today don’t look at completing driver’s ed or getting their first car the way my generation once did. Today, teens can download Uber and within minutes be on their way to the movies to meet their friends. This is a game-changing trend that poses both an opportunity and a challenge for auto companies.
We’re on the path to a Jetsons-like future, but it won’t arrive for at least another 5-10 years. The long-awaited self-driving car looks to be on its way. We’ve seen a ton of investment in this technology from a venture capital perspective and some early prototype success. What remains to be seen is how going public – as underway by Lyft, Uber, and other companies helping to drive the autonomous vehicle trend – impacts pricing and development of these vehicles. There’s no doubt that we’re headed towards a future characterized by cars that look a lot like those depicted in the Jetsons, but we’re still years away from their mass-market adoption. At no other time in history has there been such a dynamic supply of convenient, fast, and easy transit options. At STRATIM, we’re proud to be part of those working to deliver new and innovative transportation solutions to consumers.