In the last couple of years, driving in the U.S. has been on the decline, a trend that has been especially noticeable among the younger population. With less and less people showing interest in driving, and even owning a car, for that matter, it seems that the driving boom – that started in the mid 1950s – may soon be over. This decline in driving has mostly been attributed to the fact that Baby Boomers have started retiring, while Millennials have been embracing alternative modes of transportation, but rising gas prices and the economic crisis have contributed, as well.
While these factors are sure to contribute to the trend to less driving for years to come, a couple of new factors have come into play lately, that could fundamentally transform driving and transportation as we know it. The accelerated efforts from several car makers to develop self-driving cars and bring them to the market within the next 15 years, along with the increased popularity of ride-sharing services, promises to have a huge impact on the future of driving, and possibly redefine the concept of car ownership.
Autonomous cars are estimated to make up about 25% of all motor vehicles by 2030, and they are expected to replace all conventional cars eventually, which raises the question of whether people will have to obtain driver's licenses to operate such vehicles. On top of self-driving cars, the fact that more and more people are using ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, could make owning a car obsolete and eliminate the need for driver's licenses.
Once cars that can drive themselves become available for purchase, no one will have to own a car. People will be able to call a car, instead, which will pick them up from a desired location and take them to their destination. Also, no one will have to drive the car, so driver's licenses will probably become a thing of the past.
The rise in popularity of ride-sharing is also expected to contribute to the decreased need for driver's licenses. Companies like Uber and Lyft present an increasingly better alternative to owning a car, as they eliminate the costs associated with it, including gas, maintenance and insurance, and they are also more convenient and cheaper than taking a cab or using public transportation. With transportation on demand gaining a lot of traction among Millennials, it's safe to say that the number of people who will need or want to obtain a driver's license will continue to decrease at a pretty fast rate, so DMVs will likely see a huge revenue gap in the future, since driver's license fees account for a major portion of their earnings. In addition to this, when the fact that the decline in car ownership will result in reduced vehicle registration fees is taken into consideration, it becomes quite clear that the way DMVs are funded and the way they operate is bound to undergo some serious changes.
To sum up, the widespread adoption of ride-sharing and the introduction of fully-autonomous vehicles will undoubtedly take transportation in a completely new direction, rendering driving, owning a car, and obtaining a driver's license somewhat obsolete.