Fireside Chats


Turo believes in self-driving and self-funded cars

In the next 20 years, even individually owned cars will have some self-driving technology

Innovation series by Ronny Kerr
October 17, 2016 | Comments
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Editor's note: Our Post Seed VC event is coming up on Dec. 1 in San Francisco. We'll have Chamath Palihapitiya (Founder of Social Capital), Aydin Senkut (Felicis), Jeff Lawson (Founder & CEO, Twilio) and more. Check out the full lineup and register for tickets before they jump! Post Seed is brought to you by Vator, Bullpen Capital, and Haystack.

For a company whose business is founded on the idea of ordinary individuals owning and renting out their cars, the idea of self-driving technology can at first seem like a threat. After all, one could argue that car ownership—and all the associated expenses—would make less and less sense in a world where cars can drive themselves. Better to just order a car from the self-driving fleet whenever you need it, right?

Well, that's not the only vision of how our relationship to cars will look like.

At Vator Splash LA 2016 last week, Turo CEO Andre Haddad shared a somewhat different, more diverse vision of how people will own and use cars in the next couple decades. Reiterating what he told me over the phone a couple weeks ago, Haddad said that he sees a spectrum of car ownership.

On the one hand, he recognizes that self-driving cars will pave the way for different network models to serve dense communities, essentially replacing human-powered buses and taxis. We're already seeing prototypes from Uber and Lyft, though Google and Apple could certainly end up playing a major role too.

On the other hand, Haddad sees some individuals still owning cars outside of that network. Those cars will still have self-driving technology as an available capability, but they will be personally owned.

"It will be a balance," he said. "You have different levels of home ownership and sharing vacation homes, and I think you will end up having that flexibility with cars over time."

And just as in the world of home owning and renting, car owners will be able to use a service like Turo to earn some money from their asset—that is, the car. Turo today already leverages this idea in its promotional material (one example is included to the right), and some of the company's users have even gone so far as purchasing a new car with plans to have help Turo fund the purchase.

"Self-driving is going to be great for sharing," said Haddad.

In terms of how self-driving capability would change the Turo experience, Haddad described how today the host must either drive the car to the borrower or the borrower must get to the host's location. When self-driving is a reality, the owner will be able to send the car to the borrower, who will then video chat with the owner through the car's dashboard screen for brief cordialities. It's the human element that won't have to disappear simply because the car will drive itself.

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