The Future Of Driving, In One Provocative Chart

04/08/2015 09:24 am ET | Updated Apr 08, 2015
Pascal Le Segretain via Getty Images

In the future, only rich people will own cars and only robots will drive them.

That’s the takeaway from a new research note from Morgan Stanley auto analyst Adam Jonas. Like Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, he predicts that improvements in self-driving technology will eventually lead to bans on human driving on most roads.

Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft, which have already been widely adopted in major urban centers, have paved the way for cities, and eventually suburbs, to adopt mega-fleets of public vehicles that will taxi passengers around. This will dramatically lower the cost per ride to about 25 cents per mile, which is roughly one-tenth of what a traditional taxi costs, Jonas said. He provides no clear timeline for when this might occur.

By contrast, wealthy people -- at least in the near-term -- will own self-driving vehicles, a fact on which Mercedes-Benz and Tesla seem to be banking.

Again, Jonas provides no clear timeline. But an increasing number of luxury carmakers are already adding autonomous features to their vehicles. In October, Tesla's Musk estimated that fully driverless cars will be on the road by 2023.

future of driving

Here’s how the chart breaks down:

  • Quadrant 1: Today, most drivers own or lease their own vehicles, which they drive themselves. Autonomous driving technology is only beginning to emerge.
  • Quadrant 2: Over the past few years, ride-hailing services such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar have alleviated the need to own a car in many major cities, making a driver much more accessible. Jonas said this is a logical step toward the so-called mega-fleets of public, autonomous cars.
  • Quadrant 3: Over the next decade, rich people will likely swap out the cars they drive for cars that drive themselves. Already, Tesla is planning to roll out a version of its Model S sedan that has limited autopilot features sometime this summer. The latest version of the car, announced on Wednesday, starts at $67,500 after a Federal Tax Credit.
  • Quadrant 4: This is the final evolution in the car industry and there is no clear date for when this will come to fruition. But with few exceptions, most people will be driven by cars that are either a public utility or part of a privately-owned fleet that users subscribe to use. At this point, laws will likely restrict human driving to select roads, Jonas wrote. Other forms of public transportation, such as subway systems, may become obsolete.

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