So close! I ended up just a few months short of 10 years of ownership on my car. Not to be, though, as I finally made the switch to something newer.

An interesting goal nonetheless, as 10 years is just an arbitrary date set to a nice round number, right?

In any case…as you’re probably already aware, tech has made huge strides in automobiles since my previous 2001 model year car was built.

Nope we’re not just talking satellite radio either. Things like:

  • Fully bluetooth equipped cars
  • Backup cams
  • Parking sensors
  • Adaptive cruise controls
  • Heads up displays (HUDs)
  • Tablet-sized displays in the center console

And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the technology that’s buried underneath the hood now!

I’m not sure if this image is fact or fiction…although if it is fiction, it won’t be so for much longer.

Will Technology Shorten Car Lifespans?

Here’s a quick exercise…

First, take a second to consider all the technology that’s built into cars now (see list above).

Next, think about the pace of technology advancement. (Having trouble? Well go grab an iPhone 4, released only three years ago, and tell me what you think! Of course I could reference Moore’s Law here too.)

So with that, do you agree that owning my now new-ish car for 10 years like my old one will be quite a challenge? No longer is it simply a mechanical effort to keep things running smoothly. In the past, all it took was new parts and topping off with fresh liquids to keep things humming. Heck, the engine on the car I’m trading in still runs great at 100,000+ miles and could easily do another 100k with regular maintenance. The issues – if you’d call them that – are cosmetic more than anything.

However, with all this tech built into new cars the number of failure points has exploded. There are so many more pieces that can break down, becoming outdated quicker than ever.

Lessons from the Apple Edition Watch

For a similar analogy, take the criticism against the Apple Edition Watch line.

apple edition watch gold
Think you’ll be able to pass this heirloom down?!?

Apple wants to the Edition model to compete with the watch stalwarts. Apple’s gold watches, for example, are rumored to be anywhere from $1,000, to $5,000, or even more.

Here’s the catch – the same way your iPhone 4 feels so old right now, the Apple Watch will quickly feel old after a couple years too. On the flip side, what Rolex do you know that has such a short lifespan? It’s actually more likely the opposite for Rolexes, retaining or even increasing value over time.

The guts inside the Apple Watch will be amazing – Apple is phenomenal at hardware – but the specs will only be the best right now. Next year they’ll be out of date, and after a couple years the watch will feel clunky and feature-lacking.

Uber-ization & Airbnb-ization = Consumer Hardware as a Service

Finally, let’s take a look at some other trends – uber-ization and airbnb-ization. Uber and Airbnb, among others, are teaching us about new economies built around sharing, renting or resource optimization.

Over the next few years we’ll see more industries come up around optimizing the use of all the things that we buy and go unused for the large portion of their lives.

And that’s awesome. That’ll drive down costs for you & I, while also making the world better through less waste. Products that were previously too expensive for some will now be easier to attain for everyone.

Here’s my prediction:

  1. The car I just traded in will be the last car I own for a decade
  2. The next car I buy will be the last one I actually own outright, just by myself
  3. My kids will wonder why we ever wanted to buy a car, tying up so much capital in a single thing

We’re already seeing this in big urban areas (e.g. the NYCs of the world), but you will see this spread to the rural and outlying areas as well.

Of course this doesn’t just apply to cars; it’s all the tech in our lives…which is starting to mean everything in our lives: our devices, our cars, our appliances, even our homes.

What do you think?

How far off until we no longer own our cars, and cars become another Hardware as a Service (HaaS)? And in spite of all the strides he’s made at Tesla what would Elon Musk think?