Instead of buying and owning an Apple or Google car, like you would a Ford or Toyota, you would simply have access to the nearest available one via an Uber-style app. Rather than having to fulfill every consumer mobility need with a single large purchase, these autonomous “service” vehicles will be optimized for different scenarios on a pay-per-use or subscription basis. One model may replace taxis for urban hops; another model may be focused on longer commutes, while yet another may provide weekend adventure mobility. Rather than owning a city car, a sedan and an SUV, an Apple or Google mobility service may someday replace all three with a single subscription.
This not only opens new relationships with mobility for consumers, but it also allows new players to avoid the pitfalls of the traditional auto industry. If operated as a service, Google or Apple could build far fewer cars than any modern automaker and ensure that those vehicles operate at peak efficiency rather than sitting parked, as most cars do most of the time. This, along with the relative simplicity of electric-vehicle manufacturing, would mean that a mobility service would need a far smaller manufacturing footprint. Because there is also no need for a dealership network, the service model avoids the need for huge investment and entanglement with complex dealership franchise laws. With the auto industry’s main “moats” — manufacturing and retail scale — cut down to size, Apple and Google’s interest in what we still think of as “cars” would become far more viable.