Turning inner space into outer space

August 1, 2015

All we really want is a ride

An Uber screenshot

The great thing about cars is that they allow you to go wherever you want whenever you want. That’s freedom.

But what if you could go wherever you want whenever you want without a car? And without paying for insurance and gas?

In cities where Uber has launched, this dream is becoming a reality. You fire up the app on your smartphone, look at a map to see if any cars are nearby, and request a ride.

Anyone with a car and some spare time can sign up as an Uber driver. Anyone willing to hand over payment details can sign up as a passenger.

In cities with dense populations, and a lot of cars to choose from, you might never need to own a car.

Uber even works with other apps. For example, StubHub — a service where people can buy and sell event tickets from each other — will remind you get schedule a ride so you arrive on time.

The vehicles of today are fast turning into little more than computers with wheels and a place for humans to sit. Proof of this came when hackers took control of a Jeep and crashed it. It won’t be long before cars get viruses.

The driverless cars pioneered by Google use a lot of technology to sense their environment, but they’re basically using computers to do the driving. Looked at this way, it makes sense that a computer company like Apple would be looking into making its own cars. It would give a whole new meaning to mobile.

The day could come when these cars are so reliable that they are able to navigate their way through downtown traffic. When that happens, the next step will be an Uber-like app that allows us to call a driverless car for a ride.

We already have driverless rapid transit in some cities — Vancouver’s SkyTrain, for example. Why not create a system like this for the roads?

While we’re at it, driverless mini-buses could be programmed to work like car pools. The mini-bus would show up at your house every day to take you and a group of employees to work. An app would give you minute-by-minute updates on when it would arrive.

But what about car-sharing? This concept is not quite so futuristic. People sign up with a co-operative to drive cars parked in their neighbourhood. They’re meant for round trips, so you have to bring them back in a reasonable amount of time.

In Vancouver, there are thousands of car-share vehicles. Obviously, the system works but you’re still paying for maintenance of the cars through membership fees.

Real freedom comes when a car is nothing more than a ride.