The new study, conducted by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the U-M Transportation Research Institute, discovered that an increasing reliance on the Internet is actually driving down licensure rates among young adults. Moreover, the study found that this phenomenon is not unique to the United States and is actually happening around the globe.
In 2008, 84 percent of Americans in their 20s held a drivers license. That's a sharp drop off from 1983 when 94 percent of twentysomethings were licensed drivers.
It's hard to pin down a specific reason for why this shift is happening, but researchers believe it is because the Internet allows for social interactions without the need to use a car.
"Countries with higher proportions of Internet users were associated with lower licensure rates among young persons, which is consistent with the hypothesis that access to virtual contact through electronic means reduces the need for actual contact among young people,"ť Sivak said.
The general trend away from cars has yet to impact vehicle sales in the United States, but Sivak and Schoettle say that day is coming. Automakers are desperately trying to lure younger buyers with higher levels of in-vehicle technologies, but evidence suggest that strategy isn't working. One thing is for sure, it will be interesting to see how it all plays out over the next few decades.