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

By Andrew Keen, for CNN
updated 12:13 AM EDT, Fri May 17, 2013
  • 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.

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"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"

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