Report: Autonomous Cars Will Kill New-Car Sales in 2030

Autonomous driving and ride-sharing will combine to kill private-car ownership, analysts say.

An influx of self-driving cars will trigger growth in ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, causing new-car sales to plummet by 2030, according to a new report by financial services company Credit Suisse.

“Our global automotive production chain model forecasts global car production flatlining in 2030 with rising production in developing markets offset by declines in developed markets,” the report said.

The lower cost of ride-sharing compared to car ownership will drive the decline in new-car sales, according to the report. Analysts predicted that, in the coming decades, fleets of autonomous vehicles owned by companies like Uber will make up the majority of cars on the roads of developed countries.

Credit Suisse isn’t the first to forecast a future dominated by shared autonomous cars. The combination of autonomous driving and ride sharing is widely expected to have a bigger impact than either trend could have had individually. Eliminating the need to pay human drivers could dramatically increase the profitability of ride-sharing services. Autonomous cars will also be able to stay on the road more or less continuously, meaning they can earn more money and customers will have an easier time finding a ride.

But autonomous ride sharing won’t completely eliminate private-car ownership, Credit Suisse said. It found that a person traveling 5,000 miles a year would actually spend less money owning a car than they would by using a combination of ride-sharing services for short trips and renting a car for long trips. Car buyers will also be able to get good deals, as Credit Suisse expects the rise of self-driving cars to have a negative impact on used-car prices.

Self-driving cars will also account for a share of the shrunken new-car market, Credit Suisse predicted. By 2040, 14 percent of new cars sold will be fully autonomous, according to the report, and about one third will be “semi autonomous.” Remember that the predicted “flatlining” of sales beginning in 2030 will reduce the overall amount of new cars sold. That means purely human-driven cars will be an endangered species by 2040.

The potential safety and convenience benefits of self-driving cars make it easy to imagine them dominating the automotive landscape. But bullish autonomous-car predictions are based on the assumption that the technology will be successfully commercialized, that regulators will let companies unleash swarms of the vehicles on public roads, and that people will actually give up driving. While self-driving cars are making progress, we’re not quite there yet.