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Driving Towards the Future

I had an interesting conversation recently about the future of driving and vehicle ownership, and it got me thinking about what it holds for companies like ours, and for all of us as individuals.

We’ve already had glimpses of that future, of course, as Google and others work on self-driving cars (although even Google admits that fully-polished versions may still be 30 years away). Companies like Uber and Lyft have already transformed paid transportation, and urban areas have benefited from car-sharing services like Zipcar.

This particular conversation went far deeper, though, and it had to do with bringing greater overall efficiencies to our automotive transportation.  Think for a moment about how you use your car, assuming you don’t drive all day for a living. You drive to work, where your car sits all day, and then you drive home, where it sits all night. The vast majority of vehicles are not in use at any given time, and the algorithms exist to correct that with a sophisticated sharing plan.

Essentially, the idea is to bring the Uber model – on-demand rides – to your daily commute. How much less traffic would there be, how many billions of dollars would be saved on highway expansion … and how big a hit to the economy would there be as auto dealers and financers felt the pinch?  Even if these shared cars don’t drive themselves yet, that would be seismic change.

Companies like ours would be less affected. After all, we’re not likely to be transferring tools and materials from shared vehicle to shared vehicle several times a day.  But would we save some money if our trucks sat in traffic a lot less? And even more if self-driving vehicles reduced our insurance risk exposures? You bet we would.

No one knows how all this will shake out, but it’s pretty certain that our American love affair with our automobiles is about to take some twists and turns. We live in very interesting times, and this will prove to be a primary example of that truth.

Mike Popowski is President of PBI Restorations. Reach him at mike@pbirestores.com.