Lyft Co-Founder John Zimmer: Vehicle Sharing Is The Way Of The Future

In the third “transportation revolution,” the combination of autonomous vehicles and ride-hailing apps means a decline in individual car ownership. That’s a big deal — and not just for drivers.

Thanks to the astronomical growth of ridesharing over the past four years, the true age of “transportation as a service” is finally possible, Lyft co-founder John Zimmer posits in a Medium post — and this coming shift away from car ownership is set to have a big impact not just on ride-hailing apps, but for brick-and-mortar businesses.

Go ahead and call it a revolution: On-demand transport pioneers like Lyft and Uber have spent the past four years effecting the biggest change in the automobile industry arguably since the advent of the personal vehicle itself. This is due to the fact that “what began as a way to unlock unused cars, create economic opportunities and reduce the cost of transportation, has today become the way millions of Americans get around,” Zimmer writes. “[But] Ridesharing is just the first phase of the movement to end car ownership and reclaim our cities.”

What else is set to impact Americans’ transition away from ownership and towards pay-to-play usage — much like Spotify and Pandora have done to CDs and song downloads — over the next several years? Below, Zimmer’s takeaways from the frontlines of the on-demand transit revolution.

Autonomous vehicle fleets will quickly become widespread and will account for the majority of Lyft rides within 5 years

Uber recently called creating self-driving cars “basically exisential for us.”  Lyft appears to feel the same way; in January, the company announced a partnership with General Motors to launch an on-demand network of autonomous vehicles.

“If you live in San Francisco or Phoenix, you may have seen these cars on the road,” Zimmer says, “and within five years a fully autonomous fleet of cars will provide the majority of Lyft rides across the country.”

The struggles of programming self-driving cars — especially in older cities with narrower streets and non-standard intersections — is well documented. But Zimmer’s message here is clear: Lyft and Uber are wholly committed to building out this fleet — and they have the money to make it happen.

Why does this development impact the shift to “transportation as a service” and a decline in vehicle ownership? “It will be both more practical and appealing to access autonomous vehicles when they are part of Lyft’s networked fleet,” Zimmer writes. “Why? For starters, our fleet will provide significantly more consistency and availability than a patchwork of privately owned cars. That kind of program will have a hard time scaling because individual car owners won’t want to rent their cars to strangers.”

Plus, in all likelihood, the average driver won’t have the budget or the impetuous to rush out and buy a self-driving car — but that doesn’t mean they won’t accept it as an on-demand option through a trusted provider.

It’s not hard to see how this will impact businesses even beyond the auto industry: If a majority of consumers are relying on the likes of Lyft and Uber for transportation, that makes integrations and partnerships with these entities even more valuable. We’re already seeing this shift, but it’s set to continue: We’re past the days of reaching consumers with a radio spot or a billboard; it’s all about targeting them mid-ride on their ever-present mobile/connected devices — and partnering up with the entities that are delivering these people to the businesses they want to visit.

“Every year, more and more people are concluding that it is simpler and more affordable to live without a car,” Zimmer writes. “And when [these] networked autonomous vehicles come onto the scene, below the cost of car ownership, most city-dwellers will stop using a personal car altogether.”

As a result, cities’ physical environment will change more than we’ve ever experienced in our lifetimes

Cities will look a lot different without car ownership. It’s all speculation as to what urban — and even suburban — areas may look like with fewer parking lots and garages, but it is clear that the changes will impact consumers and businesses alike. Perhaps new enterprises will spring up in unused lots. Maybe food and alcohol purchases and consumption patterns will change as consumers grow to accept autonomous vehicles as a safe way to get home at night. And surely, plenty of changes will be in areas we can’t even imagine yet.

“The end of private car ownership means we’ll have far fewer cars sitting parked and empty. And that means we’ll have the chance to redesign our entire urban fabric. Cities of the future must be built around people, not vehicles. They should be defined by communities and connections, not pavement and parking spots,” Zimmer concludes. “So why should you care about changes in transportation? Even if you don’t care about cars — even if you never step into a Lyft or an autonomous vehicle — these changes are going to transform your life. Because transportation doesn’t just impact how we get from place to place. It shapes what those places look like, and the lives of the people who live there.”

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.