By Kaitlin Milliken, Staff Writer
Videos by Pablo Minier
Are we at “peak car”? Analysts and media commentators have recently been predicting that we may be on the verge of a steep drop in car ownership in the US and other western countries. The future may involve far more shared usage of vehicles, relying on services like Uber, Lyft, or Turo, as opposed to car ownership.
And with General Motors’ announcement that the company will cut up to 14,000 jobs and halt production at five North American plants, peak car seems more real than ever.
“[M]ost of the car manufactures think we’re at peak car. … It’s gonna be a massive consolidation, and the little players are not gonna survive,” McNeill said.
McNeill has had a broad range of experiences in the mobility industry. As an entrepreneur, he successfully started eight technology and retail companies, many in the automotive and insurance sectors. McNeill is also the former President of Global Sales & Service at Tesla.
Earlier this year, McNeill left Tesla to join Lyft as its Chief Operating Officer.
McNeill shared his insights on the future of mobility at Innovation Leader’s 2018 Impact event. He discussed working with Elon Musk at Tesla, Lyft’s mission, and the rise of bike and scooter rental startups. (Lyft acquired a bike-sharing business, Motivate, in July.) Watch the videos and read highlights from the conversation below.
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“I asked my team at 10…in the morning, ‘How would we do this online so that people don’t have to do this two-step process?’” McNeill said. “I watched our head of digital…and he opens his laptop and starts typing away.”
McNeill said that the head of digital returned that afternoon with an application program interface (API) that would help enable online signups for test drives.
“I said, ‘When do you think we can go into production?’ And he said, ‘I think tonight,’” McNeill recalled. “That happened in six hours, because the expectation is to get stuff done, and you have people that will do that. He’s the head of digital. He’s not holding a meeting do delegate [work]. He’s writing his own APIs.”
That hands-on culture, McNeill said, pervades the whole organization — going all the way to the C-Suite. According to McNeill, he and CEO Musk slept in factories to understand and eradicate manufacturing snafus.
“I’m pretty sure that Mary Barra the CEO of GM isn’t sleeping in conference rooms on manufacturing floors,” McNeill said. “But in the midst of that [we had] solved the problem.”
This year, McNeill took on a new role at Lyft as the company’s Chief Operating Officer. He said that he bought into in Lyft’s mission: reducing the number of cars on the road.
“Here’s the mission at Lyft for me: If you densify car transit [putting more than one person in a car]…and then electrify, we get rid of emissions,” McNeill said. “And then if we move to micro-mobility [like bike and scooter usage in cities], we remove…anywhere between 10-40 percent of [car] rides in terms of the city.”
According to McNeill, cities are often built around cars and parking. For example, in Los Angeles about 30 percent of the city is used to park cars. McNeill also pointed to public health concerns related to automobile emissions.
“It turns out if you live within a kilometer of a freeway, your chances of dying of lung cancer are 66 percent higher than if you don’t,” McNeill said. “[Lyft aims to] get cars off the road [and] get emissions down so people don’t have to die of cancer.”