Driverless Cars and Carpooling/Ridesharing

I would be remiss in not acknowledging the relationship between driverless cars and carpooling/ridesharing since a large portion of my current job is managing the Bay Area’s 511 Rideshare program. Carpooling is a small percentage of our overall commuting patterns and is, in fact, declining (as a share of overall commuters), so it is seemingly not an influencing factor. As stated in the last Commuting in America report:

Drive Alone continues to grow in share of total commuting, while the share of Carpool has declined continuously since measurements began. As a result, the numbers of car users has grown over the period, but the number of cars they use has grown even faster, with 86.3 percent of all workers in private vehicles. Vehicle occupancy for commuting has declined.

That being said, I believe the cultural norms around sharing rides has changed with the introduction of services like UberPool and LyftLine. Technology has allowed for the dynamic connections of commuters with services like Carma and Scoop. When made convenient and cost-effective, sharing a ride is becoming more and more appealing to people. We just need gas prices to go up to truly make ride sharing a cost-effective alternative.

Introduce driverless cars. The ease of ridesharing is greatly enhanced with driverless vehicle technology due to two factors:

  1. The perceived time loss or stress associated with picking up and dropping off other passengers will be minimized due to people not having to drive or navigate; and
  2. The cost of ridesharing services will likely decrease significantly due to the lack of driver needed.

If we continue with our world of minimal carpooling/ridesharing, we risk increased congestion, unreliable travel times.  Let’s start (and incentivize) carpooling more now so we’re ready when driverless cars are introduced!

About Lauren Isaac

I am the Manager of Transportation Sustainability at Parsons Brinckerhoff. Recently, I won the William Barclay Parsons fellowship for my research proposal to study how the United States government should respond to driverless cars. As I'm working on my research, I thought this blog would help to disseminate my findings and provide a forum for feedback.
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