In a few months we’re coming to the end of our lease on the Fiat 500 (our family’s only car) and we’re committing to getting around for at least one month without owning or leasing another car. We’re considering using any and all of the alternatives below:
- Bicycling, transporting goods in either panniers/saddlebags, or backpacks.
- Using Lyft and/or Uber and/or Flywheel.
- Using City CarShare and/or Zipcar (both have locations within walking distance of our house).
- Increased reliance on local public transit (BART, AC Transit, MUNI, the ferry, etc. — using Clipper cards for universal payment).
- Purchasing or renting a small motor vehicle like motorized skateboard (see demo below).
- Using a grocery delivery service like GoodEggs or Instacart.
- Renting a car for day trips and road trips.
Transportation challenges will include visiting friends in Marin (difficult to get to via public transport) and Santa Cruz, transporting groceries and other bulky/heavy purchases, dropping off/picking up our daughter at play dates and time with her grandparents, getting to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco (challenging even with a car) and client visits all over the Bay Area. While in some cases we’ll solve transportation dilemmas by having things delivered, meeting online, etc., in most cases we’re planning to take the challenges head-on: how to do we physically get ourselves and our things from one place to another without owning or renting a car?
We’re doing the experiment for at least five reasons:
- Compare costs: Even with our very inexpensive lease, our total car costs including insurance, gas, service, and tolls easily tops $400 a month. How will this compare to what we will spend on transportation alternatives (above and beyond what we already spend on BART, bicycle maintenance, etc.)?
- Compare convenience: We anticipate that there will be inconveniences in regards our chosen transportation alternatives, but how will these compare to the inconveniences of going to the gas station, getting the car serviced, and washing/cleaning the car inside and out?
- Compare fitness and stress levels: Sitting in Bay Area traffic is horrible. It’s also not good for the waistline. What effect will getting rid of the family car have on health and stress levels?
- Environmental impact: Seeing a recent SALT seminar by Saul Griffith inspired me to do my part in terms of reducing my personal carbon footprint.
- Get a preview of the future: I strongly believe that car ownership (and even car leasing) is at the beginning of a permanent, sharp decline. We want to get a preview of the new lifestyle even before the self-driving, fully automated, app-summonable electric vehicles fully replace the personal car ownership model.
The Driverless Future
Google and many major car manufacturers have built and are testing driverless cars. It’s easy to visualize a future where you tap your phone to summon a car, do something productive during your ride, and get dropped off without even thinking about parking. With a large automated fleet and low per-ride prices, personal car ownership will start to look less like a convenience and more like a liability.
City infrastructure will change to reflect a smaller fleet (fewer cars will be needed because the automated cars will serve many customers in a given day), less need for parking (smaller cars that park less often and more compactly when they do park — maybe cramming into a warehouse like sardines during low demand hours), and intelligent robotic driving that is safer for car passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists alike. Gas stations and parking lots will be replaced by parks, gardens, shops, and housing. This article explores some of the potential changes.
We’ll begin the experiment towards the end of the year. I’ll provide a full report on cost, convenience, fitness changes, and other observations and insights.
What do you think about the future of car ownership, and the possibility that electric driverless cars may transform urban infrastructure?
Skip to 7 min. for a demo of the Boosted board: