Despite a minor uptick in revenue following the downward trend in self-driving car sales, owners in Bengaluru remain wary about the new Covid variant.
Sales of Bengaluru’s self-driving car firms have dropped during the pandemic. Although sales were up in August and September 2021, they have started to fall since then.
Ravi, a senior executive from Vroom Drive, said the company is struggling as people are not going on as many long trips as they used to before. “The pandemic has affected us so badly that we had no bookings during the lockdown. Even after relaxation, sales are low except for August and September,” he said.
He added that tourists used to make up a large part of their business, and the number of tourists has decreased, creating a void in our business.
Self-driving firms incurred losses in 2020,according to a report by Tofler. Tracking a prominent car rental firm, the report explained that from Rs. 158 crore in 2018, income climbed to Rs. 267 crore in 2019 and to Rs. 295 crore in 2020. The net losses were around Rs. 116 crore in Financial Year (FY) 2018, and they more than doubled from Rs. 202 crore in FY 2019 to Rs. 424.3 crore in FY 2020. Additionally, its net worth increased from Rs. 37 crore in 2018 to Rs. 139 crore in 2019, before dropping to Rs. 47 lakh in 2020.
Zoom cars have stopped taking cars from outside as the self-driving car business is running low, said Bala Krishna Reddy, owner of Majestic R, a self-driving rental car business. “Earlier, I used to give my cars to Zoom cars. but now I have three cars that are sitting idle with no business,” he said.
Sheik Salman, owner of Self-Driving Cars Rental @ Hi5 karZ, said that his business is running very low. “In August, the business showed a little improvement, but now the business is running low as there were no bookings from last month and even this week we didn’t’t get many bookings. My business dropped by half during the pandemic, and it dropped by half again this year,” he said.
Srinivas, a software employee at Wipro, said, “I usually prefer self-drive rental cars as it gives you your own space and time while you are travelling with your family or friends. I think during these pandemic times, self-driven cars are the best option to look out for. As I can drive the car myself and travel with my friends or family without any third person involved, I suppose this way I can reassure myself and my family that we will not be infected by the virus.”
However, some still have safety concerns due to Covid. Rohit* a bank employee said, “I wouldn’t prefer self-driving cars at this point of time as the pandemic is not over yet and I don’t feel safe. Even though I got both doses of vaccination, I feel that I am not completely protected against the virus. I mainly have concerns with how the rentals maintain their vehicles, etc.” He added that since tourism in Bangalore has not opened completely, also it might be a reason for not opting self-drive rental cars.
Krishna Raj, a professor from the Institute for Social and Economic Change, said that the self-driving rental car industry depends on tourists for a large part of its business. The number of tourists travelling anywhere has decreased drastically and this has impacted so many industries that depend on tourists, like hospitality and rental cars. Unless there is some boost provided to tourism industry by the government, the situation will be dire for self-driving rental cars.