Ridesharing could ease traffic congestion and pollution, using tech we already have
The (near) future of driving relies not so much on new technology, but on new human behaviors, as this brief look at transportation and ridesharing points out.
While autonomous electric ride-sharing cars may be the sexier version of a more sustainable transportation system, we don't have to wait for the future to arrive before we start cleaning up the congestion on our roads. Even as we wait for the emergence of the Hyperloop or self-driving hovercars, we can still make a big impact on local transportation systems using the tools that are already at hand, simply by learning to change our behaviors and to be willing to take advantage of the 'surplus transportation capacity' we already have.
According to this brief video from Mobility Lab, the US has a major surplus transportation capacity, with some 85% of the cars currently on the road being used to only transport a single occupant, and if we can increase the "load factor" (fill more seats) of more vehicles, it can have a big impact on traffic congestion. That's not really news, because we've known for some time that our modern culture has a bit of a car fetish, and that our cities are car-centric, and that most (95%) of the time, those cars aren't being used, but are simply parked, waiting to be used. So of course, our single occupancy vehicles are indeed mostly empty even when being driven, because we have a cultural attachment to them as an extension of our selves, as a mobile extension of our homes, and why would we ever want to share that with anyone?
The answer to that one is the philosopher's stone of ridesharing, because even as we may all know that we can use our technology, in the form of an app and lots of data, to bridge the information gap and "absorb excess supply" in transportation, we don't all know that it can work for us, or that it can happen without a lot of additional effort, or that we can comfortably share a vehicle with another person (who we don't already know). The future of driving may not be so much about the driving as it will be the riding, as well as the inclusion of other people's schedules and preferences into our own daily trips.
"Everyday we ignore a surplus of transportation capacity: the empty seats in the vast majority of cars on the road. But as driving attitudes, data, and technology change, it's becoming easier for people to share rides -- taking cars off the road and easing congestion." - Mobility Lab
The ridesharing services are starting to get there, the apps are getting there, some drivers are mostly there, the data is getting better, but the human behavioral change isn't quite there yet, so the riders aren't really there. And because these services need to reach a critical mass in order to succeed in any given area, they are focused on high-density markets, and most ridesharing options are simply not available yet in many smaller cities (and not at all in rural areas - the closest ridesharing option near me is based out of a city that is two hours away), which is yet another hurdle for those looking to take ridesharing to the next level.