I finally got around to trying car-sharing, which is to say sampling the future. The CBC has a good overview of Vancouver services; I can’t imagine the pricing trade-offs being that different in other markets.

We signed up for Evo; it’s a little more expensive than the competition, but you get a 5-seat Prius with a roof rack; we’re a family with kids. They mostly got us with good marketing, though, offering decent starter deals through my employer and the Auto Association, from whom we already buy travel insurance and so on.

The experience · I’ve only used it once, driving from the office to where my bike was parked at the train station. I have to say, it’s pretty slick; the mobile app tells you where nearby cars are and then unlocks one for you when you get there, then you just drive away. A Prius, well, it’s not gonna make anyone’s heart beat faster, but it gets you there.

My trip made the economics pretty obvious: It cost me C$11.48, a little more than it should have because the parking-garage gate operators were changing shift, then I made a failed attempt to route around congestion. So that was 26 minutes, but at the height of rush hour; it’s hard to believe that I could have done it in under 20 minutes or about C$9.

Which is like three times the train fare, and the train would have got me there quicker, and I could have been using the Internet while in motion.

So I think the share-car is going to be a winner for errand-running and random point-to-points. But it sucks for commuting, you just can’t beat a big fat train running on a dedicated track underground. I’ll probably sign up for one of the cheaper teeny-car services too.

The future · So, what investment can I make now that will pay off when self-driving really arrives? Because the autonomous-share-car notion feels like a world-changer. They’ll park end-to-end in alleys and racks and come when called and take you wherever and you can be online in transit. At which point, driving your own car will be like shooting film or listening to music on vinyl.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Gordon Haff (Apr 29 2015, at 21:07)

I am (sadly) pretty skeptical about generalized "robo-Uber" becoming available anytime soon. I think the gap between mostly or even fully autonomous under XYZ conditions and doesn't-need-a-competent-human-present is pretty significant. That said, car-sharing is pretty interesting even if I don't really have a need for it. I know a couple who lives in San Francisco carless and I think it would be fair to say that they couldn't do so without Zipcar.


From: Grahame (Apr 29 2015, at 21:10)

"driv­ing your own car will be like shoot­ing film or lis­ten­ing to mu­sic on vinyl"

That is, if you live downtown. And you don't have a baby, or kids that throw up, or a stinky dog, or you're otherwise vanilla normal.


From: Jarek (Apr 30 2015, at 00:23)

Might be worth noting that autonomous-share-car will still be more expensive than trunk public transit due to space and energy inefficiency. It'll be pretty big for last-mile transit, though, particularly in less dense areas with distances too large to walk or cycle.


From: dr2chase (Apr 30 2015, at 18:32)

I go back and forth on the wonderfulness of Robo-cars. (In urban areas) if we're not also using their robot abilities to facilitate carpooling, they don't solve that much -- everyone still wants to get to the same place in the same rush hour, and they still take up the same space on the road, and there's going to be some tradeoffs between ride quality and road utilization (gentle speed changes require slack).

The other tricky bit I see is how the early adopters may guide the market. It might be a wonderful world if big clunky buses were replaced with fleets of carpooling robots -- door-to-door, congestion reduced, faster, less road wear (buses are *horrible* that way) -- but how do we get there? More likely the early adopters will be wealthy with tedious long commutes, and will use their robot cars for chauffeured solo transport while they get stuff done.

Me, I ride a bicycle, gets the heart beating. I wish there weren't so many big slow clunky cars taking up the whole lane; they do get in the way and slow me down, and all the traffic signals they require to make them safe also waste my time.


From: Gordon Haff (May 01 2015, at 08:47)


I'm sometimes bemused that so many of the more enthusiastic (in the "it's just around the corner and I can't wait because I don't want to own a car" sense) seem to be young techie urbanites. I find it somewhat amusing because, to a first approximation, they already have a solution in taxis/uber/lyft/etc.--more so in some locales than others obviously. It's not clear why a robo-car in those circumstances would really be so much of a win vs. the existing alternatives.

I tend to agree that early adopters will be those who want to read or whatever on their highway commute and will be willing to purchase an initially high-end car to do so.


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