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The number of vehicles per person in the United States continues to rise, according to Michael Sivak, managing director of Sivak Applied Research, and a contributor to Green Car Congress.

That rise isn’t happening in a particularly robust way, however.

Sivak finds that the number of vehicles per person has been rising 3% from 2012 to 2018. Sivak bases his calculations on numbers from the Federal Highway Administration and ProQuest.

Uber app

The ubiquitous Uber app. (Images: Uber)

But while that is certainly good news, there is something that Sivak has determined that isn’t so swell.

In 2006 the number of vehicles per person was 0.786.

By 2012 that dropped to 0.745.

And the recovery notwithstanding, the 2018 number is 0.767, or 0.019 vehicles per person fewer than in 2006.

The 2006 number was the end of a cycle that had a good run, an increase of 18.2% between that year and 1984, when the number was 0.665 vehicles per person.

Sivak has also found that the distance driven per person has a somewhat similar trend line. In 1984 the number of miles driven per person were 6,612, which then rose to 9,314 by 2004. However, in 2013 there was a decline to 8,472 miles, then a 4.5% increase by 2018 to 8,855 miles driven.

However, Sivak notes that this is still down 4.9% from the peak in 2004.

What Does This Mean?

Here’s something to consider.

While it is true that there is a rise, there is a change in transportation that is only increasing, which can have an effect on the number of vehicles per person: Ride hailing.

The first Uber ride in the U.S. was taken in San Francisco on July 5, 2010.

In 2018 there were 1.3 billion Uber rides in the U.S. That’s some 3.1 million per day.

Given that, isn’t it likely that there are an increasing number of people who don’t need to own a vehicle?

What’s more, think about this: Uber (and Lyft and others) are assiduously working on developing autonomous vehicles. These vehicles will become part of their ride-hailing fleet.

So to the extent that there are autonomous Ubers—which will undoubtedly be owned and operated by Uber or by a third party company under contract to Uber—there will be the need for fewer drivers in their privately owned cars.

Production planning will have to take plenty into account in the years ahead.


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