Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

The future of travel: Are we falling out of love with our cars?

By Andrew Keen, for CNN
May 17, 2013 -- Updated 0413 GMT (1213 HKT)
  • Guests at FutureCast debated the demise of the car as private vehicle
  • Some pointed to decline in driving licenses held by young American
  • More ideas from digital tech should be incorporated into car design, said some

Editor's note: CNN contributor Andrew Keen organized and hosted an invitation-only Silicon Valley event called FutureCast. A group of entrepreneurs, investors, technologists and writers discussed the impact of the digital revolution on transportation. All this week CNN Business Traveller will bring you highlights from the debate. AT&T and Ericsson hosted the conference at the AT&T Foundry in Palo Alto.

(CNN) -- Is it really possible that our century long love affair with the automobile is coming to an end?

Are we really falling out of love with our cars?

At the FutureCast debate last month the most surprising discussion of the evening focused on the crisis of our car culture.

Speaker after speaker noted the younger generation's lack of passion about cars. Some even said that young people no longer have any interest in driving.

How self driving car changes everything
Transportation confronts its Kodak moment
The future of transportation: Global View

"I think the biggest disruption we are going to see is the drop in driver's licensing among young people, said Doug Newcomb, former editor of Road and Track Road Gear. "I think we are really seeing a big shift in America's love affair with the car. I talk to most young people... they are not interested in driving."

Part of the explanation may lie in the latest driving technology. According to Paul Nunes, Director of Research at the Accenture Institute for High Performance, automatic transmission has killed the car.

Read more: From flying cars to shared vehicles

"A lot of young people don't have an interest in driving because they have no idea what it means to drive," Nunes said.

The end of our love affair with cars seems to be an international phenomenon. "In France, 30% of Generation Y-ers don't have a driving license," confirmed the Paris-based Frost & Sullivan director Jan Christensen.

"I don't even have a driver's license," confessed Jahan Khanna, the 25 year-old co-founder and CTO of the car-sharing network Sidecar.

"The interesting thing is that cars are expensive and you rarely, rarely use them, and when you do use them, you use them inefficiently and most of the time you are driving them, you are looking for a place to park," Khanna explained.

"So there's no cogent reason to own a car in the way we do," he concluded. "We really should re-examine what it means to own a personal vehicle."

Read more: Would you trust a self-driving car?

Even Greg Ross, Global Director of Infotainment Strategy and Alliances at General Motors, acknowledged the problem. "We see the trends too," he admitted.

But what can the car industry do about it? How can it make automobiles as seductive to young people as iPhones?

"The iPhone is more than a phone," Ross explained. "No two iPhones are very alike. They are always designed to be the way you want it to be with the things you like it to be."

So is this how the car industry can get us to fall back in love with our cars? To design them like iPhones, as platforms, which we can personalize according to our own taste and interests?

Read more: Transportation confronts its "Kodak moment"

Part of complete coverage on
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 0212 GMT (1012 HKT)
Imagine you're a hotel company with a score of brands that seem, well, dated. All the flash amenities of yesteryear seem irrelevant today.
April 8, 2014 -- Updated 0414 GMT (1214 HKT)
The European firm has unveiled how passengers flying on its new A350 XWB might travel.
March 26, 2014 -- Updated 1335 GMT (2135 HKT)
Would you pay to cut in line for the toilets on a flight?
March 5, 2014 -- Updated 0218 GMT (1018 HKT)
Concorde is a thing of the past, but a number of companies are racing to release the first supersonic business jet.
March 3, 2014 -- Updated 0222 GMT (1022 HKT)
Though we're still in the early stages of 2014, it is already proving one of the most expensive years for the travel industry.
March 4, 2014 -- Updated 1715 GMT (0115 HKT)
At $83,200 a night, the Royal Penthouse Suite at Geneva's Hotel President Wilson is the most expensive hotel room in the world.
February 17, 2014 -- Updated 0348 GMT (1148 HKT)
From 'ascending rooms' and mini-bars to pillow menus and iPad-controls, discover the evolution of hotel room amenities.
February 17, 2014 -- Updated 1612 GMT (0012 HKT)
There's a new group of travelers in town -- and it hardly matters which town you're talking about.
February 13, 2014 -- Updated 0457 GMT (1257 HKT)
It's Boeing vs. Airbus as the heavy-weight plane makers face off at the Singapore airshow.
February 10, 2014 -- Updated 0203 GMT (1003 HKT)
How airlines are making in-flight maps more interactive and monetizing them.
February 4, 2014 -- Updated 0103 GMT (0903 HKT)
What do new planes have to endure during cold weather testing?