With the rise of electric autonomous vehicles, what is the future of driving?

At Hagerty, we spend a lot of time talking about Why Driving Matters, and with the rise of autonomous vehicles, we’re naturally keyed into what the future of driving might look like. That was the topic of conversation at our recent Why Driving Matters/Town Hall Series discussion at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

The bottom line: Don’t be afraid. No one thinks driving is going to go away. A recent poll indicated that 36 percent of people in the U.S. either “love or are passionate about cars,” and that includes males and females of all ages.

Our expert panel included Bisi Ezerioha of California’s Bisimoto Engineering, Hagerty CEO McKeel Hagerty, and Brian Scotto, who teamed with Ken Block to create Hoonigan Industries, which produces “authentic products for the rebellious gearhead.” Hagerty magazine editor-in-chief Larry Webster moderated the discussion.

To start: Why does driving matter? The easy answer is, because it’s fun. For McKeel Hagerty, it’s about experiencing a feeling of taking command and “actually exploring.”

For Ezerioha, “Driving is a way to embrace a better quality of life. Whether we are transporting ourselves from point A to point B or being able to enjoy the driving experience, it really is all about life and its quality and making it better.”

Scotto added, “For a lot of people like Ken (Block)… there’s an expression level… There’s this element of freedom when people drive.” But Scotto also fears that we take that opportunity for granted. “I hate to sound cliché, but we’re dealing with a world where there are women in Saudi Arabia fighting for the right to drive, and most people in L.A. want to have someone to drive else them around.”

The subject then turned to the often-repeated assumption that kids no longer care about cars. The panel disagrees. “They may not be doing it the same way that we did, but they’re playing video games and learning it through a different route,” Scotto said.

Ezerioha said that we all have an opportunity to “get them more involved and do a better job of exposing young people to the beauties [of the automobile].”

Future of Driving Town Hall
Brandan Gillogly

The discussion then shifted toward a more autonomous future. Webster noted that roughly 10 percent of new cars will be electrically powered by 2030, and perhaps up to 40 percent by 2050. Does that propose a threat or an opportunity?

“If you don’t embrace this, you will fall by the wayside,” Ezerioha observed, then assuring the crowd us that “the future will incorporate electric vehicles and hybrids, and it will still be fun.”

Scotto acknowledged that the changes we’re seeing in the automotive world are not limited to technology but also how we appreciate our cars. “The casual enthusiast still exists, (but) it may not be on the same level as before,” he said. “There was certainly an era of where—and not to be sexist, but that’s the way it was at the time—every guy has got to love a car and know how to dial in a carburetor. That era is gone. That’s definitely changed. We’re seeing car culture present itself a lot differently.”

For example: “Has anyone noticed how many roof top tents have been sold the last two years? The new trend is to get out and go exploring in your car.”

The panelists went on to discuss the next generation of auto mechanics, the value of video games, the Google pod car, future government regulations, and our role to promote driving to younger generations.

Have an idea about what the future of driving might look like? Let us know in the comments.