31-year-old John Zimmer, the president of ride-hailing startup Lyft, thinks the days of car ownership are numbered.
“You could actually start seeing the majority of millennials in the next five years or so saying there’s no reason I should get a car,” Zimmer
told Mashable in a recent interview.
And the facts suggest Zimmer could be right. From 2007 to 2011, Americans between 18 and 34 bought a staggering 30% less cars, according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
One might assume Zimmer would point to the ease of use of Lyft and its main rival, Uber. But Zimmer thinks it’s something much more fundamental in American society.
“The car used to be the symbol of American freedom,” Zimmer said to Mashable. It was the element that inspired writers like Jack Kerouac, an object tied to the dream of the open road — and the freedom that came with it. With a car, no one could hold you anywhere you didn’t want to be.
But now it’s different, Zimmer says. “A car is like owning a $US9,000 ball and chain, because you have $US9,000 in expenses on your car every year.” The physical freedom comes at the cost of economic freedom, and Zimmer thinks millennials — his generation — are fed up.
But while Uber and Lyft envision a future in which no one owns cars, other tech power players aren’t necessarily pushing in that direction.
Google-owned Waze recently announced a carpooling app, RideWith, which will debut in Israel. RideWith will match drivers with passengers who normally take a similar route from home to work. Passengers will pay drivers a small fee for the ride — basically to cover the cost of wear and tear. And drivers will only be able to make two trips per day, so they will certainly not be able to start a true side business.
While Google could be testing the waters for a Lyft and Uber competitor, RideWith doesn’t seem to be undercutting the consumer car market — for now. And though Google has been pouring capital into developing self-driving cars, it’s unclear whether the future business model will rest on car ownership or complete reliance on a company like Lyft or Uber.