Today's news of explosive car-pooling companies in Europe is a glimpse into a broader trend: Car-driving and car-owning metrics are peaking across the developed world
When it comes to cars and young people in America, every trend line is pointing down-right. Car sales? Down 11 percentage points. License ownership? Down 28 percent. Miles driven? Falling fast. Car companies hope this is a peculiar outcome of the U.S. recession. But in fact, the move away from cars is bigger than the U.S. (and bigger than the recession).
Carpooling is the new rage in Europe, the New York Times reports this morning, where Paris-based BlaBlaCar and Munich's Carpooling.com are "global leaders in ride-sharing." The companies claim more than 6 million combined users (some overlap is probable), and their growth has even attracted the attention of Silicon Valley investors. Their success parallels Zipcar, the foundational American car-sharing company, which claims 700,000 members in the United States.
Who wants to invest in a hippie-dippie scheme to monetize carpools? Somebody looking at the bigger picture.
Maybe something like this picture, right there on the left. As the world's richest economies pack densely into cities to escape the new normal of gasoline prices, miles driven in passenger vehicles have either hit a ceiling or started to decline in the U.S., Japan, Germany, the UK, and France. Australia has seen the same decline in car travel. The most important detail in this graph is along the X-axis: The decline in average car miles isn't a recession trend. It's just a trend. In the U.S., the global capitol of car enthusiasts, total miles traveled peaked in 2004, the Economist reported, and per-person travel hit a peak in 2000.