Entrepreneurs

Lyft co-founder: 'By 2025, owning a car will go the way of the DVD'

A Lyft car drives along Powell Street in San Francisco, California.
Getty Images
A Lyft car drives along Powell Street in San Francisco, California.

In the near future, car owners will be in the minority, predicts Lyft co-founder John Zimmer.

"By 2025, owning a car will go the way of the DVD," says Zimmer, who is also president of the San Francisco-based ride-hailing service, in an article he wrote on Medium. In major U.S. cities, private car ownership "will all but end," he writes.

That's because it's both cheaper and easier to not deal with owning a car, says Zimmer. "As a country, we've long celebrated cars as symbols of freedom and identity. But for many people  —  especially millennials  —  this doesn't ring true."

Between car payments, insurance, gas and repairs, car ownership costs the average American family nearly $9,000 each year, Zimmer says, citing AAA. "The car has actually become more like a $9,000 ball and chain that gets dragged through our daily life," he writes.

As part of that evolution, more cars will be self-driving. In the next five years, the "majority" of Lyft rides will be in autonomous cars, Zimmer says.

Thanks to a partnership with General Motors announced in January, there are autonomous Lyft vehicles on the road in San Francisco and Phoenix as part of pilot programs. But by 2021, autonomous vehicles will be handling the lion's share of Lyft rides, he forecasts.

Just last week, Lyft competitor Uber rolled out self-driving vehicles on the streets of Pittsburgh.

In the transition from human-operated cars to driverless ones, there will be a hybrid phase where self-driving cars are monitored by human drivers, he says.

Ironically, over the next five years, in the first stage of that transition, Zimmer predicts a greater need for human drivers at Lyft. That's because he expects more Americans to give up their cars, increasing demand for the ride-hailing service. Eventually, he says autonomous car technology will get to the point where human operators are not necessary.

Of course, the vision of dramatically declining individual car ownership has an obvious business benefit for Zimmer, but it's idealistic, too. He hopes to decrease the space devoted to parking, since individually owned cars spend the majority of their time parked.

"Next time you walk outside, pay really close attention to the space around you. Look at how much land is devoted to cars  —  and nothing else," says Zimmer.

"Most of us have grown up in cities built around the automobile, but imagine for a minute, what our world could look like if we found a way to take most of these cars off the road. It would be a world with less traffic and less pollution."