Car sharing services could evolve into something quite spectacular; something that could eventually eliminate the need or desire for much car ownership at all.
It may be difficult to imagine now, but in the not too distant future current car sharing services such as Zipcar and Getaround, and on-demand car services such as Uber, could evolve into something altogether more impressive. Car companies themselves could even get in on the act.
Just hear me out. You’re at home with family or friends. You have the sudden need or desire to go out somewhere. There are 4 of you, and you don’t own a car between you. You don’t need or want to these days. You pick up your smartphone and with a few swipes quickly order a self-driving car (otherwise known as an autonomous vehicle, robot car, or driverless car) that is the size you need.
Of course, any car you choose is an emissions-free, all-electric, or hydrogen-powered vehicle. Most cars sold by this stage are. This on-demand car service is very inexpensive, as autonomous vehicle technology has become cheap and ubiquitous by now, and there’s no driver to pay. Clean energy (to charge the vehicles) is getting cheap and abundant too, especially solar power.
There are now enough self-driving cars in your area for one to show up within a few minutes, perhaps even seconds if it’s off-peak. The car service will find you via GPS or pre-registered address, and the car will alert your smartphone as it approaches. You all jump in and are driven expertly and safely to your destination, like a taxi, but with no driver. You can change your destination on the way via voice command, whenever you want.
After you have reached your destination, the car takes off again to pick up other people, or parks somewhere close, by itself, ready for its next call.
There’s no fuss, no emissions, and it’s safe. There’s now no need for expensive ownership of a car, and there’s no burden of maintenance at all. You don’t even have to fill-up or recharge the car. It’s all done for you, even the driving. You’re free to spend that time and money on other things.
Does this all sound impossible? As you may know, driverless cars already exist, they’re just not widely distributed, yet. Certainly, taxi and on-demand car services already exist, and car sharing services are becoming increasingly popular.
So I ask you, why wouldn’t this become a reality within the next few decades? All car sharing services would need to do is to start purchasing self-driving cars as they start to become available.
Image CC licensed by Steve Jurvetson
Feature image: Google Robcar (Prius) driving on a racetrack
Bottom image: Hands-free, autonomous car, 2009