December 8th, 2011
05:12 AM GMT
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(CNN) – Given a choice between internet access or keys to a car, which would you choose?

According to new research, it’s more of a toss-up for young adults. That not only marks a generational divide between lifestyle choices for Generation X and Gen-Y, but could have a knock-on effect for how future cars are developed, the study author says.

It also speaks to a new study on why more traffic deaths in the U.S. are a result of using phones or portable electronic devices while driving.

When posed with the dilemma of choosing between access to your car and access to the Internet, 46% of all 18-to-24-year-old drivers in the U.S. surveyed said they would choose the Internet and give up their cars.

That’s according to a study by Gartner research to be released early next year.

“Back in the 50s and 60s, everyone was keen on getting their driver’s license as it was liberating,” said study author Thilo Koslowski, lead automotive analyst for Gartner, in a phone interview with CNN. “Today, it’s not the case. The freedom now lies in accessing data online and people are just meeting up on social media sites like Facebook instead.”

Gartner’s research, which has been ongoing for a decade, shows a different paradigm forging among Generation Y. Young consumers now are only paying attention to new technology which benefits them in their daily lives. The trend was first seen in Japan and it’s now filtering across to the U.S., Koslowski said.

Moreover, as automakers in the world’s largest economy try to woo younger customers, this research suggests that the automotive industry should take more cues from smartphone developers.

“The phone does so much more than just make calls. It’s a way to stay connected now. In the same way, the car will need to be much more than just be a form of transport. While we’ll always need a car to get from one point to another, we’re seeing a change in its function.”

Some reasons for the shift: teenagers are spending more time text messaging rather than traveling to visit friends. And time spent texting limits time spent in the car, according to a recent New York Times article.

With fewer 16-year-olds obtaining their driver’s license, as statistics from the U.S. Transportation Department suggest, teenagers today are forcing a change in the direction of the automaker industry.

There are signs carmakers are making their vehicles more in-tune with smartphone generation. Drivers can remotely control the air conditioning system and check the car battery using their smart phone in the Nissan Leaf electric car.

Toyota’s new futuristic concept car also has smartphone sensibilities. The Toyota Fun-Vii allows the driver to download information from their phones and display it onto the body of the car.

Or even better, there could be Google cars on the roads driving themselves – giving teens even more time to text and use their phones.

Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter also points to another auto trend on the horizon: Renting cars out for short term use, known as “peer-to-peer car sharing,” Koslowski says. In Gartner’s research, some 60% of the 18-to-24-year-old that were surveyed said they were more likely to use this service than those in the older age brackets.

“Mobility’s now differently defined. Younger consumers want to use cars without ownership so monthly car subscriptions could be the way forward,” he says. “By 2016, most consumers in mature markets will consider in-vehicle web access a key criterion in their automobile purchases.”

However automakers will also have to take into account the wealth of statistics pointing to a high number of car accidents caused by distracted driving where texting while driving falls under this category. According to the data on cell phones and distracted driving in the U.S., more than 5,400 people died in crashes that were reported to involve a distracted driver in 2009. Among those killed or injured in these crashes, nearly 1,000 deaths included cell phone use as the major distraction.

On Thursday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released the study saying the use of phones while driving is holding steady, and text messaging is growing, despite laws limiting hand-held devices and a tidal wave of publicity about tragedies cause by distracted drivers.

NHTSA said there's evidence that 3,092 deaths - one-tenth of all roadway fatalities last year - involved distracted drivers, although they believe the actual number may be far higher.

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Filed under: Auto industrySocial mediaTechnology

soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Henk

    "Moreover, as automakers in the world’s largest market" What is this guy talking about. China has surpassed the US and became the largest Car market in the world. Do these CNN writers even read their own headlines.

    December 8, 2011 at 6:20 am |
  2. Pablo

    This generation has merged into a weird reliance on social technology. I can't fathom not wanting the freedom of a car over the internet. Imagine, you can actually GO to your friend's house or meet them at a common place and hang out and interact with one another physically. What a concept. I guess I'm just an old crotchety Gen Xer.

    December 8, 2011 at 7:47 am |
  3. Cambo

    The value of a car also depends on where & how you live; still at home with mom &/or dad? live in a city with good public transport? Then why would you need a car??? It'd be a luxury not a necessity. These days internet access is a necessity. It's not hard to understand. Duh!

    December 8, 2011 at 7:54 am |
  4. Pslimy

    I Would choose the internet, because there's no need to think twice about it, considering my lifestyle (computer science student). I do alot of research and i need the internet to do so, i spend almost 90% of my day indoors, and 70% of that time i spend on the internet. 65% on google doing my research and 10% programming and writing scripts. So where does owning a car come in, no where. I could just stop a taxi, and continue surfing the internet on my phone/tablet, without worrying about the incoming car. Believe me, i would choose the internet even over a jumbo jet.

    December 8, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  5. Femrov

    Matters on d type of car

    December 8, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  6. 1235263734563

    Obviously the internet is worth more than a car, for £18 a month(my case) you have access to a huge base of information, movies, music, games etc. Whereas a car means freedom to travel at a cost of £1.20 a gallon, £200+ monthly payment for the car, £100+ insurance, road tax, parking. Its not worth it, public transport is good enough.

    December 8, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  7. Chyka Ubeji Warri

    Am i̶̲̥̅π for †ђξ internet... That's final. N̶̲̥̅̊☺ internet n̶̲̥̅̊☺ social life. Thank ‎​U̶̲̥̅̊

    December 8, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  8. Amatex Chris

    I believed that the wisdom of GOD onto mankind is everlasting un limited and this great idea ill be a tremendous breakthrough that has ever happen in the existence of human life in this global edge and i believe that it ill surely be and plead let Nigerial and Africa not be left out with this dream .

    December 8, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  9. Marie

    Is this article for real?

    December 8, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  10. khanikun


    China has the world's largest car market, but the US has the world's largest economy. The article says economy, not market.

    December 8, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  11. khanikun

    Without a car, I'd have no job. Without the internet, I'd also have no job. Now if I can use the internet for work related purposes and can't use it for things like Facebook, youtube, etc, then I'd take the car. I love driving and not getting to have my leisure drive every weekend would kill me. I'd end up missing out on the world and being stuck indoors all the time.

    If I didn't have a car, I wouldn't have seem as much of the world as I have, as public transport simply doesn't take you everywhere. Especially in the US, where public transport is pretty much non-existant.

    December 8, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  12. 11811

    Imagine a long time ago there was neither cars nor Internet..

    Living in a rural area, I NEED my car to survive, ie get to work, the store, etc. I can (and have) survive without Internet; it's a luxury. (I admit, I enjoy FB, Netflix and news online.) What scares me is the what these teens are using the Internet for and the lack of parental supervision. At one time, parents knew all their kids friends and could advise against bad habits and withhold car keys. Now, with the Internet on phones etc, many parents don't know WHO their kid is intereacting with or what type of information is being shared. As a 30 something, I look at most teens/young college age kids and shake my head at what they think is acceptable based on all the Internet sharing.

    December 8, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  13. kc_and_fa

    I think the price difference between delivering a message by car and delivering that same message by email may play into it. So what is the point to the article?

    December 8, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  14. M

    I would take the car. I'm 43 and have fully embraced technology (I've dabbled in programming C++ and worked with MAYA 3D. I'm also an avid gamer). However, I also grew up in a time before this tech revolution and fondly remember the joys of just going out and cruising around town with friends, or the times I took road trips across country losing myself in the joy of seeing the real world out the windshield. I'm startying to think today's youth would almost be happier being plugged directly into their computers and live a sort of fantasy life not unlike the Matrix movies, where everything is experienced virtually rather than in reality. I think it's a sad state of the world when people would rather communicate across the internet than across a table at a bar or coffee shop. Unplug people! The worlds waiting for you!

    December 8, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  15. J

    Uh, I'll take the internet.
    And the following motorcycles:
    Ducati Panigale 1199
    Kawasaki ZX-10r
    BMW S1000rr
    Aprilia RSV4 Factory
    BMW R1200GS Adventure
    Triumph Daytona 675R

    December 10, 2011 at 5:53 am |
  16. RealityChex

    For fifty dollars a month, plus electricity and initial computer purchase, I get the World Wide Web and all of the jobs and entertainment it offers. For fifty dollars a month ... I can barely drive back and forth to work on fifty dollars a month, never mind the car payment, insurance payment, registeration payment, bi-monthly maintainence, and the hazard of driving with U.S. drivers who all think the speed limit is what is posted plus another fifteen miles an hour because they wont get pulled over...

    December 10, 2011 at 5:56 am |
  17. hodakos

    texting while driving should be punished more strictly.

    December 10, 2011 at 6:21 am |
  18. itsybitsy

    The auto industry is worried about its markets. Of course. Self-interest. But everything going on
    in the world tells us, LESS CARS, LESS CARS, LESS CARS.

    For every new car that doesn't get sold, I breath a sigh of relief.

    December 10, 2011 at 6:47 am |
  19. wasso

    I would prefer a cross between a car and the Internet: teleportation

    December 10, 2011 at 8:01 am |
  20. steve

    i could easily live without a car (i ride a bike most days anyhow), but internet! if the question was, internet or oxygen, that would be a harder choice.

    December 10, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  21. JVDB

    Are you kidding me ??
    I got internet... i7 powered PC and 2 smartphone but i will give all of them up for my Subaru Impreza WRX, no way i will ever give my car up for a PC or qwery keyboard you kidding me !!

    December 10, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  22. Erik V

    There is still a big difference between 'being connected' and physically getting to one point from another no matter what generation you are!

    December 10, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  23. rav

    no wonder americans are fat

    December 10, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  24. Phil

    with skype etc why would you choose a car over the internet? obviously if you live in nowhere USA that might be different, but who the hell are the 54% who chose a car, if you live in a city and youre not disabled a car would not be worth more than internet access, is taking the bus really that hard?

    December 11, 2011 at 12:35 am |
  25. Martin Smith

    18-24 year olds are for the most part still in school or low end entry level position, a couple hundred a month in car payments, another 100 for insurance, fuel, parking in any major urban centre and yea pretty much car ownership is out of reach anyway.

    December 11, 2011 at 12:50 am |
  26. Ross

    I won't pay for any option pack that includes smart phone, bluetooth, USB blah blah connection then.

    If the young want them those will become standard specification.

    December 11, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  27. CBB

    I sold my car a few months ago and now with my pc and smartphone with online connection I am ever freeier than ever. No gas price thoughts no insurance expenses etc's on vehicle.

    December 11, 2011 at 9:40 am |
  28. lolrates

    "Back in the 50s and 60s, everyone was keen on getting their driver’s license as it was liberating,”
    This is why government and other organization that take these surveys have no clue, they are comparing the internet age which started less than 20 years ago with the 50's and 60's when cars where finally affordable for most Americans.

    December 11, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
  29. guest305

    internet, you can work over the internet even as a teen. Driving? No big deal but the costs and hidden costs associated would kill someone's wallet. I started driving late myself, could still get around without a car. If I don't pay my cellphone bill I could still bum some wifi and contact people. There are no gross fines for innocent misuse. There are no police hiding in someone's lawn to pull you over for driving 6 miles over a ridiculous speed limit. There are no "sunday-texters", no moving roadblocks. you get where I'm going with this? The internet makes things faster and cheaper and that's what kids these days are after. For failing to stop before the white line when making a right turn at a red light you can be charged 158 bucks, nevermind that you were only inching forward to see if oncoming traffic was there since the roads are designed for people from the 50s or 60s FOR drivers of the 50s or 60s. Another issue is the number of people driving now and traffic. Its all a hassle.

    December 13, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  30. nondumiso

    God Is on work guys.u hv done grate last year and this year we all know that u will make the bible. Keep it up

    January 16, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  31. Cody

    I'd take a car any day over internet access. Anything on the internet is out there in the real world, you can see it, touch it, smell it, and use your actual senses as a human being instead of wasting away under fluorescent lighting and air conditioning. But I'm not here to harp on the internet, I'm just saying, if given a choice. The internet is a wonderful tool that provides the world with a plethora of information with a few keystrokes and clicks.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
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