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Owning a Car Will Soon Be as Quaint as Owning a Horse

By The New York Times



  • If I take uber every day, it will still be cheaper than owning a car. As much as I live driving, it's clear my young son will never know what it means to drive.

  • Car ownership is insane -- many people go into serious debt to purchase a rapidly-depreciating asset that is at high risk of theft and accidents.

    Outside of urban areas, though, it's still a sad requirement that you must own a car. It's unclear how soon autonomous cars will finally take over (I think most news coverage is far too optimistic), but when it does, car ownership will most likely collapse within years.

  • If you live in an environment with convenient transit and lots of shopping you don't need a car.

    Most of us don't live there. There is no transit ,you can't walk to shop in short you can't go anywhere.

    The loss of private vehicles would cut us off from the national parks, the beaches the small towns in effect the entire country.

    We would also lose the freedom of meandering just because we can and the freedom of choice because we would be limited in our choices of theaters restaurants unless we all live in a city like New York. I like New York but I don't want to live there.

  • TV is still around & car ownership will continue... We were also suppose to operate in paperless offices as I recall

  • I like and respect @karaswisher but this headline is ridiculous. 97% of the land mass of America is rural and 20% of the population lives there. It isn’t just “easier” for urban dwellers; tech companies actively cater to them. Even autonomous driving is focused on the urban market, instead of relieving the many hours of driving that rural Americans spend just to get basics like groceries.

    To call them quaint is the worst kind of snobbery. That’s like saying people who don’t have broadband are choosing slow internet, as opposed to dealing with access issues. If Kara and the NYT want to expedite the transition off car ownership, perhaps they could advocate for the infrastructure and technology investments that would unlock it for 20% of people?

  • Perhaps in large metropolitan areas, where it has been happening already for many years. But outside of that not near as fast.

    There are reasons we don’t have this sophisticated mass transit system everyone bemoans the lack of. Mass transit is efficient and horribly inconvenient. We, as a people, have valued convenience over the relatively minor costs of this inefficiency. After all, the savings of efficiency are spread wide, but the costs of inconvenience are deeply personal.

    Until you have near on-demand real-time shared transit you don’t have a viable alternative to the convenience of personal ownership of a vehicle.

    In case anyone missed this, the F150 outsells the Prius 7 to 1. Full size pickups combined and it’s around 20:1. Ford is not making any more cars - but they don’t expect to sell less vehicles. People aren’t buying something that can be replaced with a bus seat or an Uber 20 minutes out. Not most people.

    A car ain’t a landline. So far, there’s no replacement that offers the convenience, not at any price, not in most of America. Until then, it may be early to call its demise.

  • Tell that to the West

    My family used to drive 45 minutes both ways to get 2 weeks of groceries up until a year ago.

    People writing these articles just don't get it. They've never lived in rural America.

  • Great headline. But reminds me of the Bill Gates quote that people tend to overestimate changes over two years and underestimate the changes over ten. I still have time to get my dream sports car before it becomes quaint, basically.

  • There is also the whole culture of car ownership that will be difficult to overcome. In addition to the sheer freedom of potentially being able to pick up and go is a tremendously liberating feeling. Indeed there is almost no going back.

    I’ve lived in areas with excellent mass transit, and it made sense to use it. Though there wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t long for my vehicle.

    If that’s quaint, I will take both my car and steed thank-you-very-much!

  • “Soon”? Ha!

    I enjoy the “every census tract” Twitter account, which has been doing Florida recently:

    Large swaths of America are flat out hostile to pedestrians. I grew up in a suburb that looked similar. If I wanted to visit friends, my parents would have to drive me there.

    I’m lucky enough to now live in one of a handful of cities in America with meaningful public transit infrastructure, like the author of this piece; most aren’t.

  • Clearly written by someone born and raised in an urban environment with mass transit. I've never heard it said that owning a house is quaint... Almost everyone over 30 I know owns a house... And has a car because they need AND want it; I need it because I don't have alternatives, that may change and that'd be awesome, I want it because I like taking my family on road trips... That isn't going to change.

  • Transportation expert Paul Barter found that U.S. and U.K. owned cars are parked 95% of the time!

    He says of the U.K. study...

    "... there are about 25 billion car trips per year, and with some 27 million cars, this suggests an average of just under 18 trips per car every week. Since the duration of the average car trip is about 20 minutes, the typical car is only on the move for 6 hours in the week: for the remaining 162 hours it is stationary – parked. Since there are 168 hours in a week, the typical UK car is parked 96.5% of the time - even higher than the US estimate.”

    Why own something you rarely use?

  • If you are Kara Swisher then owning a car is quaint. If you are the average American you either live in New York or lease/own a car.

  • I invite the author to live in Florida (the 3rd largest by population state now) for a year. She'll miss owning her own car real quick. The infrastructure just doesn't exist yet, unlike cell, broadband, TV, etc to make transportation easy around large scale areas.

    I can completely visualize not owning one though. But unless by "soon" she means a few decades, then those of us not living in a metro center will be owning our cars for a while longer. (Or paying astronomical service fees to ride sharing services to live our normal lives).

  • Not in the suburbs and in areas like much of Chicagoland where public transportation is either nonexistent or hard to access.

  • Although the article muddles several ideas into a single thesis, the main thesis should be about whether there will be a transition away from private ownership of vehicles, not Urban vs suburban or rural living styles per se. Globally urbanization is a megatrend that is going to drive more and more public or corporate ownership of transport in general, but that does not make it practical outside of urban metropolis areas.

  • How funny. My husband and I just made a zip car rental and we walked to the space and THE CAR WAS NOT THERE. Zip car gave us one hour of driving time for this inconvenience and now we are taking a lyft to get to the actual rented car since it's so far away. I am ready to buy a car after this terrible experience!

  • Car = Freedom. Namely for me as a teenager in a small community. I get what Kara Swisher is pointing at, but I think she underestimates the vehicle’s role in our speed-addicted society. Kara is more than welcome, though, to enjoy public transportation and all its glory... just don’t touch the walls, floors, or the guy in the dirty trench coat who won’t stop staring at you.

  • Totally true. The amazing thing is that this is possible and it is now, also, required to do. Fossil fuels should be gone in ten years. The majority of cars will go with them.

  • The answer is probably somewhere in the middle. My wife and I live in an urban area and I travel quite a bit for work. We could certainly go to one car and I think this is likely the first step. A traditional American 2 car family (or more if you have a kid driver) going down to 1.

  • After buying cars all my life, a lease made more sense when I switched to electric. (An old smartphone or laptop is bad enough, but I didn't want to pay a small fortune for technology likely to be outdated in a few years!)

    I week ago, I did a subscription. Monthly payment, nothing down, no other fees at all. Even includes insurance! Hard to see ever buying again.

  • Is it quaint to live outside of NY?

  • Being based in a mid-size city Stateside -- we have Uber and Lyft, but low supply -- we keep a car and I hate every moment of it. It stays parked at my folks' house for months at a time. It gets dings in parking lots and needs oil changes. We used to live in NYC -- car free bliss. And we now spend the majority of the year in East Africa, where we also get by just fine without a car. Uber, Taxify, SafeBoda (mototaxi hailing: check it it out!) and an industry of low cost private drivers with a car that can be used for things like school drops and pickups.

  • I doubt you can get rural men out of their big trucks, which just get bigger each year. Ford I see devoting it's energy to making trucks mostly now. Taurus is a thing of the past.

  • Not having a dedicated vehicle only works if you live in a central urban neighborhood with lots of amenities and good public transit. Otherwise you will either spend a huge part of your waking hours on buses & trains or a huge part of your income on cabs & car shares.

    For those of us who don't live in NYC, DC or Chicago, going car free isn't an option.

    @MattWallaert you're call out is spot on, but if you add small metros and suburbs to the places where car ownership is critical, you're looking at almost 70% of the country.

  • Sad as it is to do so I must agree, I have gasoline in my veins and love anything on wheels , raised around tracks ( great community) my brother-in-law tried to get me to be a monkey on a side-car in motorcycle racing WOW check that trip out ! Anyway what is the truly sad part is how many ( predominantly men) learned & innovated turning wrenches in all fields mechanical, every guy I knew learned the pleasure of feeling gas, grease, nuts & bolts come together & I can’t put into words how good it can feel if you understand the complexities of timing, boring , installing piston rings , torquing main bearings the list is endless ,your right most millennials aren’t into this, but where do we get this hands on building & innovating ? Meccano is so much better than Lego, I fear we’re losing a very vital component in our make-up in this next “ Brave New World” read about Taxi drivers in London “ used to have the healththiest brains from the memory demand placed on them. I think this article has a nuance in it where crazy as it sounds the change the within the whole mechanical industry is dumbing us down.

  • Cars ceasing to exist is a delusional fantasy.!

    The rest of planet earth is in no way and shape effected by this. Many barely have paved roads, others trying to stretch more railway tracks, and many live without electricity so electric cars is out of the question.

    And it's not like GM, Nissan Group, and Toyota are just going to close shop and remain idle though all of it.

    Don't get me started on Oil tycoons, that will do everything to see that doesn't happen, even if they buy the tech and bury it themselves.

  • I’d like a horse too.

  • Good luck Kara Swisher in shrinking your and your kid’s worlds to a microcosm of what it could be.

  • This was written by someone who has no passion for driving or offroading or interest in vehicles. Very exclusionary.

  • Lesser Drunk drivers on road!

  • The insanity of continuously running busses and trains wasting energy while running empty of passengers. Mass transit is as much a blight on the landscape as any oil well or coal mine.

    If we revert to horses, some will scream exploitation, while others protest flatulence. An excess of critique when more reflection on solutions is the need.

  • I love cars, driving, and even did some amateur racing back in the day.

    And yet, I haven't owned a car in 10 years. And today, thanks to better public transit and services like Lyft, I may never need to ever again.

  • This is a ridiculous article that seems to assume that most of the US has access to public transit systems. I live in a city that only has two Uber drivers. Most surrounding areas don't have any at all. And it's a college town! This is the face of most of the country, too - the only areas I've lived in where these systems were really thriving were metro.

  • I have several friends that work in downtown Denver and they all still need to drive their car from their home to get to the light rail station to take the light rail downtown. Ironic.

  • This is why car and oil companies will fight it to the max to not let this happen. But it is inevitable. Hopefully sooner than later

  • As i live in a rural setting, cannot imagine how i would get to my doctor who is a mere 25 km away!

  • City Dude. (Can you hear the snear that matches the one in quaint?)

  • Very forward thinking article!

  • I see where you’re coming from on your take. It really is a lot more convenient to use ride sharing service. However, what about in rural areas? It will be pretty difficult for these areas to transition into not owning a car. Think about it, some people drive 30-50 miles to go to work. The price for that trip to work and back would cost an arm and a leg. Also, I find it difficult for there be enough people to be able to meet everybody’s needs. Also... if we were to go away from buying cars, don’t people who drive Uber and lyft still need to buy cars?

  • I am really looking forward to this change. Cars ruin cities and rural areas by making everything far apart. Once there are no cars we will see more small stores a long a pedestrian street and a lively neighbourhood of people walking or cycling to work. Public transit will also improve because more people will be willing to pay for it and we won’t have to spend long hours behind the wheel or finding parking spots. Hyper loops will also make housing cheaper as well as vacation travel.

  • Living in Michigan I can’t imagine not owning a car. Our disjointed public transportation because of our desire to segregate inner and outer city Michiganders, even though most outer city people work in the city makes it bear impossible. My commute to and from would be impossible like many others even though we have the highest cost to car ownership in the Midwest from insurance, to registration, to gas taxes. It would take a complete overhaul of our entire way of living to make that leap and I imagine the same in many other places.

  • I’ve been preaching it myself.

  • I have been Car-less for three years now. Our kids and their age-mates haven’t even bothered to get a drivers license despite living in a country where they could drive assisted at age 14 and get their license at age 16. Parent-chauffeur got replaced by Uber and trains or buses. They are Car-less already. But cars are a necessity in many rural areas and most developing countries. The transformation, as is many times the case, is uneven. Question—will Africa lead in this transformation as it has in mobile payment systems?

  • On second thought, as I did some writing on driving for a ride to hire company, I would like to share a memory regarding my childhood, I grew up in Bergen County New Jersey, back in the 60's-70's. The idea of car ownership was not as big a deal back then, fortunately for my single mother; the grocery store was near by, and another secondary type of store was about a half of a mile away. In those days, before the bigger stores started coming in, PathMark was our first supermarket. Otherwise, for prouably .75 cents in those days, you could take the bus to the next city, where there were many types of stores, whole block long, including everything, entertainment and such. My mother was forced to be frugal with her money, and never wanted for what she couldn't afford.

    By comparison in todays times, most people are affording their luxuries by a very tight budget, and then resorting to the use of credit cards as a rescue. There are alot of examples, and many people are upside down in their budgets, and can hardly think clearly on why something may or may not be necessary. Aside of high car payments, plus insurance a car needs to be maintained, also a major car expense could be crippling. Cars are great for convience, and good memories, but they come with alot of responsibility, not to mention other liabilities, tickets, accidents, death by vechicle, so in tying in all the good stuff, unfortunately for many reasons the car remains as an envious object of possession, with also deliberate intention by movie makers to have the car inflects anything from modern drama, mighty machines pushing speeds of 140 going down some nyc street or hwy, and these are usually block buster movies, but we delinate a special brand in the movie making art, that art does not copy life, instead it copies us, if that is so then instead of being quaint, perhaps the key is modesty.

  • If you have a baby this year...most likely you will not have to teach home or her to drive.

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