Bring on the scooters! Also a lot of other stuff.
The future should be an all-encompassing, subscription-based model that is the convergence of on-demand transportation provided by a network of autonomous, electric cars; a last mile transportation network of small, personal, electric vehicles; and a robust public transportation option.
Owning a car is a pain. Car payment, maintenance, insurance, fuel, and parking are all necessary to have the “freedom” a car provides. Car ownership and maintenance is a burden, especially on people with a low or fixed income. Assuming it could still meet all of a person’s transportation needs, why wouldn’t they exchange all of that for a simpler, easier system?
Uber and Lyft are partway there, but, as these service become more integrated into the transportation systems of urban centers, their business model will have to be adjusted.
Offering a subscription or a set of tiered subscriptions should be the end goal. Perhaps 20 rides a month for $175 or unlimited rides for $400. Even with surplus charges for additional miles or discounts for ride-sharing, both options are less than what most people pay cumulatively for costs associated with their personal vehicle monthly. The pattern of subscription options will likely be reminiscent of the cellular data subscriptions with tiers that change as the infrastructure expands and adoption increases.
Eventually, this can expand to include unlimited access to the scooter network as a stand alone or bundled option (ie $40 and $25 per month respectively). Lastly, it can include geographic specific public transportation options as additional bundles or stand alone options.
Bringing all of these together under a single system would be the best way to move forward.
Autonomous, Electric Cars
Autonomous cars arrived years ago, but they’re still not good enough. There are also many philosophical and ethical questions that have yet to be resolved. Thankfully, there are many engineers, companies, and investors who want to really, truly succeed in this space, and it is only a matter of time.
Electric cars are environmentally cleaner, safer, and will prove more economical to maintain at scale than internal combustion engines. Creating a fleet of autonomous vehicles that are ran out of hubs for charging, cleaning, and maintenance will be the best way to deploy these new vehicles to markets and make them available to customers.
I was in San Francisco 1 week before they released the scooters. Despite the hate the scooters are getting, I find the concept and the promise of new forms of last mile transportation an extremely compelling one. Electric batteries are becoming smaller, cheaper, and more feasible every year. Whether scooters, bicycles, or skate boards, these vehicles are being more accessible and are an amazing compliment to on-demand or traditional public transport.
The systematic reduction of American’s public transportation infrastructure throughout of the mid-to-late 20th century was a mistake. Cars may mean “personal freedom”, but at what cost? The pedestrian infrastructure in small to medium cities is laughable. Public transportation needs to be rethought, redone, and added back into the equation for the many Americans who simply do not have access to public transportation at this time.
This will require major investment and overhaul, but it can be done. It has been done in many other places. We just need to find the will and the desire to do it.
The convergence is already underway. Lyft recently acquired the oldest and largest bicycle, ride-sharing company in North America. Ride share companies recognize that the automation of the cars that provide their service is a prime space in their business model for increasing profit. Electric cars are finally becoming a real, feasible option.
The largest hurdle to convergence is the integration of public transportation into the system. Perhaps it will be similar to MoviePass and will be abstracted away from the public transport systems themselves. Or maybe it will be fully integrated. Either way, it will be a welcome addition.
Thoughts on Parking
Parking lots are sprawling, expansive wastes of space. The more people rely exclusively on ride-share / on-demand vehicles the fewer total vehicles on the road. This will directly lead to a reduction in demand for parking space which will increase the availability of prime real estate currently occupied only by concrete and paint.
The Future of Personal Vehicles
Passenger cars and trucks will eventually become similar to ATVs, farming tractors, and construction vehicles: bought for a specific purpose only by those with enough space to operate the vehicle. Rural areas will always lag far behind urban centers, but eventually I believe we can get there.
This is the future I want and hope to live in.