(Photo: Hiro Saijou of Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory Silicon Valley, Kiyoshi Fujiwara of Mazda Motor Corporation and Nick Sugimoto of Honda R&D Innovations Inc talk about “Entering the age of autonomous Driving” at RISE 2017 on Jul 12, 2017)
RISE Conference 2017: Centre Stage (Jul 12, 2017)
“Enjoying the excitement and momentum when driving and treating a car as a mean of door-to-door transportation are the two major motivations for people to own a car,” as shared by Hiro Saijou of Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory Silicon Valley in one of the sessions at RISE 2017. Cities with well-established public transportation systems still cannot provide a full scale of door-to-door mass transportation support. However, there are existing means that address such need, for instance, traditional taxi services and on-demand mobility, which people can schedule their own transport via mobile application, apart from driving their own cars.
According to the presentation by Andrew MacDonald of Uber in RISE 2017, there are approximately 1 billion of cars in the world while they were sit idle for 95% of the time. With on-demand mobility services e.g. Uber and Lyft, they reduce the time that these vehicles are sit idle by better utilizing them to provide door-to-door transportation upon request. Nonetheless, car ownership still creates numerous social and environmental problems. It does not only contribute to carbon emissions, of which 10% of the total carbon emissions are result from transportation, that lead to pollution and greenhouse effect, but also creates other social issues such as occupying space for parking that can be of better use like residential or recreational facilities development.
(Photo: Andrew MacDonald of Uber presented “Who needs a car anymore?”in RISE 2017, on Jul 12, 2017)
If there is an affordable, effective and reliable alternative, it may reduce the demand of car ownership especially for those who intend to go from one destination to another by driving. As compare to traditional taxi services, on-demand mobility services are more reliable because the automobile can pick you up anywhere upon your request via mobile application. Some of the on-demand mobility services e.g. Uber have real time dynamic pricing system that will adjust the trip fares based on demand, as a result, it ensures sufficient supply of automobiles.
Riding an automobile alone is more expensive than sharing the transportation cost with others. On-demand mobility services including Uber start their business by encouraging car owners and drivers to share their personal cars by signing up as their driver-partners. The business model evolves recently from sharing their personal cars to ride sharing. Andrew claimed that sharing self-driving cars will reduce the number of cars on the road by 90%. As a result, it eases traffic congestion and minimize the pollution caused by transportation. Besides, ride sharing provides door-to-door transportation service at an affordable and cost-effective mean to the public.
Ride sharing will be the future of mobility. Although some may argue that people are unwilling to share a ride with a stranger, Andrew believes that convenient and cost are the main concerns instead. He stated that 9% of Americans who gave up their car last year turned to ride sharing services as their primary options. “Share rides, share cost” is the next move for Uber, which uberPOOL has been launched as an alternative option for those who are cost consciousness while would like to enjoy the convenient of door-to-door transportation. Andrew foresees that autonomous driving can only meet its full potential when ride sharing becomes common. Therefore, he believes that only by speeding up the technology and implementation of ride sharing can we enhance the demand for autonomous driving.
Government support is critical for the implementation of ride sharing and autonomous driving. Although ride sharing and autonomous driving may be beneficial to the society by easing traffic congestion, over use of land of parking, pollution and driver’s time cost, they also create threats such as safety concerns, ethics issues etc. Governments need to strike a balance by closely monitoring the implementation of ride sharing and autonomous driving, which will impact the society, but not over-regulate them that may lead to an end to their development.