When the New Year you're celebrating is 2030 instead of 2016, what will you be driving? Depending on where you live, car-sharing, electric cars and even self-driving cars could be in your future in the next 15 years, according to a new report by consulting firm McKinsey & Co.
Released today in connection with the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the McKinsey report projects how new developments will affect residents of the world's densest cities vs. those who live in rural areas or small towns. The biggest changes will come in congested urban areas, where traffic jams and air pollution will force increasing regulation of cars and more adoption of low-polluting electric vehicles.
Meanwhile, drivers in rural areas and small towns will likely continue to drive traditional gasoline cars and trucks.
The increasing trend to online shopping for everything from electronics to groceries will mean more and more deliveries to you and fewer drives to the mall or the supermarket to get stuff yourself.
"We are seeing unprecedented change in the auto industry," senior McKinsey partner Hans-Werner Kaas told CBS MoneyWatch in an interview. He cited the likelihood of increasing disruption to traditional automakers as big tech companies like Google (GOOG) and Apple (AAPL) enter the race to develop self-driving cars.
Let's take a closer look at the predictions in the McKinsey report:
Electric vehicles.Perhaps the most surprising projection for 2030 is that electrified models, including gas-electric hybrids, could reach 50 percent of new-vehicle sales. So far, high initial cost and low gasoline prices have kept U.S. electric sales sluggish.
To reach that predicted level, however, several technological advances need to take place, Kaas said. Initial cost -- now about $30,000 for an electric car like Nissan's (NSANY) Leaf, needs to come down by about one-third. More powerful batteries are needed to extend the range a car can drive on electric power alone. And recharging stations need to become not only widespread but faster to make owners willing to take a trip that requires recharging.
Even without such changes, tightening regulations will still mean electrified vehicles would move up to 10 percent of new vehicles sold by 2030 from the recent 2 percent, Kaas said. Cities and states with severe pollution problems will likely give increasing advantages to all-electric vehicles such as more purchase rebates, special parking privileges and the ability to drive in high-occupancy freeway lanes with only a driver on board.
Self-driving cars.As many as 15 percent of new vehicles sold by 2030 could be autonomous, the McKinsey report estimates. The barriers to hitting that level, however, aren't only technological but also involve the need for laws regulating both how self-driving cars can be used and who's liable in case of an accident.
To hit the upper level of this projection, McKinsey's Kaas said, the self-driving technology has to be flawless at understanding and reacting to other vehicles, physical barriers and pedestrians.
If a given vehicle is completely autonomous with no option for a passenger to take control, then the liability would likely fall on the manufacturer. But if it has manual controls -- similar to a commercial airliner where the pilot can take over from the autopilot system in a difficult situation -- liability likely would be split. State legislatures and the insurance industry need to grapple with these issues before self-driving cars take to the roads in large numbers.
In addition to technological and legal issues, Kaas said, consumers must be confident that the self-driving features work. This will require automakers to either stage events or have centers where shoppers can try out such vehicles before even considering a purchase.
In the auto industry itself, traditional automakers likely will have to form partnerships with tech companies to develop self-driving cars. We're already seeing the start of that trend, with a reported autonomous car partnership between Google and Ford (F) being formed.
Car-sharing.By 2030, you may be using different vehicles for different kinds of trips. For instance, the McKinsey report notes you might own a small electric car for daily commutes that are well within the range of one battery charge. But to take the whole family on vacation, you might need a large traditional SUV. Instead of owning the SUV, you might belong to a service that lets you reserve and pay for it just when you need it.
Companies like ZipCar now offer such services. But Kaas said he expects that by 2030, new forms of sharing will develop -- such as fractional ownership, in which you share one vehicle with just a few other owners. The auto leasing industry also may develop sharing options that resemble leasing. The report projects that as many as one in 10 vehicles sold in 2030 could be used for some form of sharing.
All of these trends are being fueled by national and local initiatives around the world. U.S. federal regulations requiring that an auto company's gas mileage average 54.5 MPG by 2025 is pushing automakers toward electric options. Kaas said he expects to see more cities adopt something similar to London's congestion pricing, where you must pay a high fee to take your car into the central city during weekday business hours.
If such trends aren't already affecting you directly, chances are they will be by 2030.
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