In recent months, there have been many news articles regarding the introduction of a new transportation mode: microtransit. If there was a transportation mode spectrum between large, fixed route buses and single occupancy vehicles, microtransit would fall somewhere in-between. Mictrotransit examples include the following:
- Commuter buses (Leap Transit, Chariot SF, and Bridj)
- Dynamic vanpools (Via, RidePal)
- Dynamic and traditional carpools (Carma, Duet, PiggyBack Rides, and Tripda)
- Cab sharing (Lyft Line and Uber Pool)
- Informal ridesharing networks (NYC’s dollar vans)
- Employer Vans (Google, Genentech, Facebook, etc)
These have introduced significant reactions from both the government and communities. I’ll start with the positive – these many platforms are leveraging technology to improve mobility in cities that have significant mobility challenges. The reason new companies are appearing everyday reflects the fact that there’s a market to serve and people are hungry for alternative transportation solutions. The negative is that these services do compete with transit. They cost more (sometimes significantly more), they often use public bus stops, and they are often not accessible or affordable.
Here is an example of a first-of-its-kind partnership between a public transit agency (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) and a Transportation Network Company (Uber) partnering to integrate their solutions into one app. Impressive!
What does this have to do with driverless cars? One (or, likely, more) of these business models could be the foundation for how driverless cars are integrated into our cities. People don’t necessarily need to (or want to) own their own vehicle. Moreover, they enjoy the ability to do other things while in transport (the appeal of driving is diminishing). And, finally, people are embracing the “sharing economy” and are happy to share both the ride and the associated cost.
The government is still figuring out how to regulate this constantly-evolving industry. I hope they will have it figured out in time for the arrival of driverless cars…
See past post on the relationship between driverless cars and ride/car sharing.