What if we all looked at driving as less of a right and more of an addiction, a disability, or a disease to be avoided, cured or overcome? What if driving were seen as a menace to society draining lives, money and time from the economy? What would our public policy priorities become in this new context?
Sweden isn’t waiting to find out. The country concluded its first experiment in vehicle-less living at the end of last year and is pondering the second phase of its exploration of a less vehicle-focused way of life.
While Lyft CEO John Zimmer recently chimed in that automated driving will obviate the need for car ownership within five years, neither Zimmer nor Uber’s Travis Kalanick have demonstrated yet that they can make money with their ride hailing model with or without drivers. It’s not likely that they will be successful with automating driving – certainly not profitably.
The beauty of Sweden’s UbiGo test is its emphasis on paying for whatever transportation you use or need via a single mobility subscription. Car companies are attempting to embrace this vision, as in the case of Daimler’s Moovel, but they may not perceive the ultimate consequences.
Within the UbiGo model in the Swedish city of Gothenburg 70 paying households relied on the test-version of UbiGo for their everyday travel for 6 months. The UbiGo service combines public transport, car sharing, a rental car service, and a taxi and bicycle system – all in one app, all on one invoice and with 24/7 support and bonus points for sustainable choices.
Some cities have seen fit to offer incentives for residents to use ride hailing services, suggesting that cities, like San Francisco, see the merit in prying human beings away from and out of their cars by paying them. But UbiGo takes this process to another level.
Unlike congestion charging used in cities like Stockholm and London, where drivers simply pay more to bring their cars into designated urban zones, UbiGo creates a system of incentives to reward non-drivers. (Truly, the next step is support groups where determined drivers will be treated like addicts, severely sanctioned or penalized or perhaps actively shunned by “cured” no-longer-drivers.)
Today car makers are playing along with investments in ride hailing and car sharing services seeking to increase the transportation options for city dwellers and visitors. But the likely long-term outlook is an urban environment ruled by shared public transportation resources.
In five years, Uber and Lyft may no longer be around as existing taxi providers – newly appified and reliably profitable – regain command of ad hoc transportation with or without drivers. The real revolution, though, lies in looking at driving as an addiction, a disability or a disease.
Cities around the world are overwhelmed with cars. Multiple-day traffic jams of the type seen in China will soon swamp the likes of Sao Paulo, New York, Mumbai and Paris. There has to be a better way and Sweden is in the forefront of this innovation.Share this post via: