FOR decades, automakers have been able to count on a fundamental fact of American life: You pretty much need a car to get around.
But lately, novel technologies, including ride-hailing services like Uber and advances in self-driving cars, are creating new alternatives for commuting, shuttling children and going to the store — particularly in urban settings.
There are also demographic and economic trends in play. Many younger Americans do not consider owning a car a goal or necessity — or a necessary expense. So carmakers are looking ahead to a day when the automobile plays a smaller role, or even no role at all, in many people’s daily routines.
“The historical model is you buy a car and it’s in your garage most of the time,” said Glen DeVos, vice president for engineering and services at Delphi Automotive, a big developer and supplier of automobile technology. “It’s the second-most expensive thing you buy after your home, so if you can get around without owning a car, there are a lot of economic reasons people may not own a car, or own only one instead of two.”