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Future Car Sharing: Electric, Driverless Cars Ordered Via Smartphone

Google driverless car

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.

Autonomous car

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

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sila332

    What interests me most about the potential of this technology is two things. First is that this is a tool that might be able to change  the nature of consumption, that a frictionless personal transportation sector might allow the production and consumption sides of the economy to become linked in a true system of recycling, re-use, etc. The second is the enormously disruptive nature the change is likely to take. We don’t appreciate how many jobs, and how much of our personal lives, are linked to a driver-based transportation system.

    As a direct result of my interest I’ve enrolled in the graduate program in Sustainable Transportation (college of Civil and Environmental Engineering) at the University of Washington. And as technological challenges are overcome I’m looking increasingly at social, legal, and political implications. I’ve even taken the step to begin writing a blog called (tongue in cheek) “Apeless Carriage”.    I will be keeping an eye on your blog, I suspect this will be a rich topic of discussion over the next few years.  Sincerely, Lars Christian

  • http://www.the9billion.com/ John Johnston

    Thanks for your thoughts, and I’ll keep a look out for your blog posts. Yes, what interests me about it is also that we could well be heading for a society in which we don’t own so many “things”, but rather use on-demand services that deliver what we need or desire.

    At the moment, most people still seem to be obsessed with buying and owning a lot of things – the more the better. We like to feel wealthy, and like to be viewed as wealthy by others, and that’s how we display it, by owning desirable “things”.

    Apart from the obvious environmental issues related to this overconsumption, to own a lot of things actually causes quite a few hassles in life. We have to maintain them, store them, insure them, and then somehow get rid of them when they are not wanted. We spend a lot of time doing all this, and time is our most valuable asset in life. What if we got to the pont where instead of owning things, we were able to easily access on-demand, shared services similar to this, for many things we do?

    We may yet get over our obsession with accumulating possessions, if another way comes to be seen as more desirable.