Technology will enable millions of people to use transportation means in a more efficient and sustainable way, solving traffic and pollution problems in cities.
Some benefits of technology are obvious: Car doors can now be unlocked remotely without physical keys. This innovation facilitates car rental by the hour, instead of by the day, and enables customers to return a car to a different lot from where they pick it up. GPS navigation can guide us safely to unfamiliar destinations, or streamline our routes for better convenience and cost savings. In the future, driverless cars will populate our streets — let’s hope they reduce the number of Single Occupancy Vehicles and clear the traffic jams that gridlock our cities.
Besides making it easier to hail a cab using an app, smartphone capabilities and social networks also make it possible for people to coordinate and achieve more efficient mobility by sharing private cars and rides. Thousands of programmers are creating new functionalities for improved mobility and when these applications are installed and used, it will lead not only to an accelerated innovation pace, but also to technology democratization, giving the user power previously reserved for enterprises. This is also called the new sharing or collaborative economy in which, in addition to the traditional consumer role, people acquire the new role of producer of goods and services to deliver to society.
Who’s who in the new businesses related to mobility?
New businesses are emerging around the world (like Uber, Lyft, Blablacar, car2go, Didi Chuxing) to capitalize on how consumers are using technology to get around. But there is still a lot of confusion about what these companies really do, and how they solve travelers and citizens’ problems.
It is very important to distinguish between sharing cars and sharing rides.
If I drive a car now, and someone else drives it later (for example, renting it by the hour ), that is car sharing. In the city, this saves parking space, and that’s all. There is little difference in the efficiency of using a taxi, whether you hail it on the street, or you call it by phone or by smartphone app.
However, if we find people with compatible paths and several of them go together in the same car (instead of going to work and each one driving his own car); this is ridesharing.
It’s much better to share a ride than to share a car.
Ridesharing is several times more efficient and sustainable than carsharing because it saves fuel and travel expenses by dividing the cost of using a single vehicle between several travelers. It takes the passengers’ cars out of circulation and helps to reduce traffic jams at peak hours, which can increase travel time by three or four fold and pollution by 80 percent. It also helps to solve parking and pollution problems in the city.
In addition, if the car is owned by one of the travelers and not an enterprise, there is no investment to recover and no profit. That is the true collaborative economy of the future, which reimburses the benefits of sharing to those who share, and provides additional city liveability and environmental benefits to the rest of society.
Instead of concentrating wealth on a few large companies (as has been the case with individual consumerism), the true collaborative economy (in which individuals share car rides, and take advantage of would-be empty seats) brings benefits to all of us.
By carrying extra passengers on your way to work or your travels around the city (or, better yet, going as a passenger in someone else’s car) you can get around with the comfort and speed of a cab, but at the lower price of public transit. As we remove cars from circulation, we overcome some of the most prevalent transportation problems in our cities: traffic jams, parking problems and air pollution.
Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward