The ranks of companies in the ride-sharing game have swelled far beyond the likes of Uber and Lyft, past the self-driving gurus like Google sister company Waymo, past even the established automakers.
Now they include companies like Bosch, the German company best known as an automotive parts supplier, which last week acquired American ride-sharing startup SPLT. And Sony, which just announced it will partner with Tokyo taxi companies, lending its artificial intelligence tech to the tricky business of dispatch. And even rental company Avis, which purchased car-sharing company ZipCar and is working with Waymo to support a self-driving taxi rollout in Arizona.
Welcome, passengers, to the confused and confusing age of mobility. The central quandary, the reason for these new sorts of businesses and brainwaves about revenue streams, is pretty simple. The automotive industry thinks personal car ownership will plummet in the coming decades. It has already dipped, especially among young people: The share of Americans aged 16 to 24 who held a driver's license dropped from 76 percent in 2000 to 71 percent in 2013, while car-sharing memberships grew. The supposition (and it is still a supposition) is that the decline will continue, especially in big cities where parking is dear. For the companies in an industry that has spent more than a century selling cars to individuals, this presents a problem.
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