If the automotive industry’s spending habits are any indication, self-driving cars are the future. All of the major legacy manufacturers are investing billions; as are a number of tech giants. But they may have reached a stumbling block; the vehicles probably won’t last long…
How Long Should A Car Last?
How long is a car meant to last? This is a difficult question to answer, given the many meanings that ‘meant’ can imply. After all, there are a lot of different interests with a stake in the matter. For consumers, they’ll naturally want their cars to last as long as possible; longer lifespans mean better value for money, regardless of how long they use the vehicles themselves. For automakers, they’re somewhere in the middle; they want their cars to look robust and cost-effective, whilst also ensuring people (quite simply) keep buying their models and consistently.
When it comes to automotive longevity, there are essentially two factors to consider. The first is how well-assembled the vehicle is. This is down to the quality of the automaker’s manufacturing capabilities. The second is more unique to each vehicle and concerns how it’s used and how often. In the UK, the average motorist covers around 8,000 miles per year. As a rule of thumb, most automakers suggest that their cars should last for 8 years or 150,000 miles. The figures, at least in terms of mileage, aren’t far off in the UK in practice, given the average scrappage age is 13.9 years. That might not appear too bad. Unfortunately, such figures can’t be applied to future self-driving cars. Here’s why…
What We Can Learn From Ridesharing
Why do automakers and tech giants so desperately want to produce driverless cars? Well, first of all, there’s a prestige in perfecting what is expected to be a revolutionary technology. But, more importantly, people are excited about the profit margins. Take Uber, for example. The company has basically failed to reach profitability throughout its entire existence. Despite being exceptionally good at raising capital and transporting millions of people every year, it’s simply not making money. Why? Well, at least one of the reasons lies with the fact that human drivers need to be paid and take breaks. A driverless car doesn’t entail human labour and, barring refuelling or recharging, can just keep on operating indefinitely.
The average Uber driver, at least in the States, amasses 1,000 miles a week and therefore 50,000 miles a year. If, then, we take these figures and compare them with regular motorists, we’d anticipate ridesharing vehicles to reach the scrapheap in around three years; nearly 11 years earlier than regular vehicles. It’s not hard to see why, either. All of that mileage means increased wear and tear, whether it’s tyres, brakes or the engine. It also invites far more possibilities for accidents, crashes and damage.
The Good Die Young?
Uber demonstrates that ridesharing vehicles get used much more extensively than regular vehicles; which is hardly surprising. But given that most innovators are designing driverless cars with ridesharing in mind, it’s to be expected that they’ll face similar rates of usage to current equivalents. The situation looks bleaker when you consider how much more complex self-driving cars will have to be, housing all sorts of computing technology. No doubt, especially to begin with, this will be prone to failure and technical faults. A very large segment of this future industry, then, will face the prospect of scrapping potentially millions of sophisticated vehicles after only just three years on the road; and at a time when the industry is under immense scrutiny for its impact on the environment.
But whilst ecological and environmental controversy can wreak havoc on car manufacturers, like Volkswagen, it’s often not enough to derail them. What can, however, is a lack of profitability. If self-driving cars are due to expire after just three years, will they actually make money in the first place?
Pedestrians May Have To Be Penned In For Driverless Cars To Work: https://autoserve.co.uk/motoring-news/pedestrians-penned-driverless-cars/
The Nightmarish Prospect Of Preparing For Driverless Cars: https://www.autoservefleet.co.uk/latest-news/preparing-for-driverless-cars/