Imagine living in a world where your car will not only drive itself, but also pick you up. That could be the future of cars and transportation, Patrick Tucker, deputy editor at The Futurist (a trends and forecasting magazine) tells Business Insider.
Here’s what Tucker envisions:
If you combine a Zipcar-like cooperative business model with self-driving cars, then you could have a system where if you want a car, the car could drive itself to you, pick you up, take you where you need to go, and when you’re done, the car could drive itself away and go be of use to someone else.
“One of the big potentials is that it changes the urban landscape because you can have your car drive to where you are and pick you up, as opposed to needing to park your car within a mile of where you are at,” Tucker says.
Since these cars would be able to communicate with each other, there would effectively be less traffic and congestion. Also, drivers wouldn’t have to worry about parking.
Tucker’s sentiments stem from one of The Futurist’s recent forecasts for 2013 and beyond. That forecast says that cars will be able to produce power while they’re parked, and the owner of those cars could get paid for the energy their vehicles produce.
Tucker admittedly says that these forecasts are not concrete predictions, but merely a tool for thinking about how cutting edge technology might affect the future so that we know how to change it. Still, Tucker says that forecast is tied to a couple of other things he’s seen recently.
A few years ago, MIT’s Smart Cities program started researching and developing mobility on-demand systems. These systems are essentially collective transportation ownership programs that provide light electric vehicles or bicycles throughout a city.
As part of the Smart Cities proposal, people would pay a Zipcar-like subscription to access a fleet of electric cars, mopeds, and bicycles. One potential use case, for example, would be biking to the grocery store, leaving it there, and then bringing the groceries back to your house using a car.
Since you don’t own the car yourself, all of the excess energy left in the car’s battery could be used by someone else, and not just go to waste. So the entire system ends up using less energy than a bunch of individually driven cars.
The idea of mobility on-demand systems coupled with self-driving cars, Tucker says, is where the future of cars and urban transportation gets really exciting.
“While the (self-driving) cars aren’t safer than a really safe human driver, they’re definitely safer than a bad human driver,” Tucker says. “The degree of improvement is exponential. I don’t throw exponential around lightly. It’s amazing how quickly these cars are improving and how safe they’re becoming.”
Assuming that self-driving cars prevail, “the real potential of these cars is we have a transportation system that is much better on the environment because it allows more people to use vehicles in a very different way,” Tucker says.