For some drivers, smart vehicles and autonomous driving technology is fueling interest in the automotive industry, but for many more that passion is dampened by the cost of ownership. Even with frequent price drops and lineup changes an entry-level Model 3 with Autopilot retails for $38,990. If you want full self-driving capabilities it’s an extra $6,000.
Several companies see a future that reduces that cost burden by creating new passive sources of income for drivers. Ridesharing companies like Uber or Lyft could be opening the door to smart car ownership, according to Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk.
Income from Your Car
All Tesla vehicles are considered luxury, and Musk says the high price is unavoidable at the moment.
“It’s not like we could make a $20,000 car and are just arbitrarily choosing not to,” Musk said. “We do not know how to make that.”
This high barrier to entry could be countered by ridesharing services says Musk.
“You can get a Model 3 lease for about $400 a month, maybe finance it for $450-$500 a month . . . and that’s basically a little over $100 a week. How many rides would you have to have an autonomous car give to make $100 in a week? Very few,” he said.
Musk argues that as long as you’re willing to use the car for ride sharing services a Tesla is affordable to nearly anyone.
Income from Your Driveway
Your self-driving vehicle may not be able to earn an income yet, but the ground beneath it could. Companies like UK-based YourParkingSpace.co.uk are letting individuals rent out their driveways and parking spaces for cash.
Users list their space online and include a description, photos, and availablitiy. Pricing is set by each individual and they are paid each month.
“Homeowners are making significant sums from a previously overlooked asset right on their doorstep . . . it really is one of the easiest ways to make some extra money,” said Harrison Woods, managing director for the company.
Driveways in London earned $235 a month on average according to a report from the company. Spaces close to local amenities, train stations, music venues, sports stadiums, and airports are in particular demand on the service.
Roadmap to Ownership
Imagine this scenario: you leave for work in your fully-autonomous vehicle. Your driveway opens up as a parking space to paying users, and once you arrive at work your vehicle leaves to provide ridesharing services. At the end of the day your car returns to pick you up and take you home.
Your car payment is covered every month, and all you have to do is allow strangers ride in your car every month and park in your driveway. It won’t be appealing to everyone, but even those ready and willing to embark on this new venture will have to wait.
Only a few states allow fully autonomous vehicles (without a driver present) on public roadways. Florida was the most recent state to enact sweeping legislation in June allowing for their operation. The bill, CS/HB 311: Autonomous Vehicles, clears the way for the advancement of the technology stating, “A fully autonomous vehicle may operate in this state regardless of whether a human operator is physically present in the vehicle.”
Besides the limited locales where driverless vehicles can operate, the other limitation faced today is the ridesharing services. No major ridesharing company offers users the ability to utilize driverless vehicles.
YourParkingSpace.co.uk hasn’t branched out into America yet but it may be on the horizon. A spokesman for the company said they plan to expand to more locations internationally in the next 12 months, with the United States being one of them.
This snapshop of the future might not yet be possible, but it’s a roadmap to autonomous vehicle ownership, and for some, even an investment opportunity.