Will Robotic Car Sharing Become the Ultimate Driving Method?

A new study from ABI Research says by 2030 400 million people will rely on robotic car sharing. Do you agree?

Photo Caption: Zipcar, the world's largest car-sharing service, is confident that self-driving vehicles are coming. (Photo Credit: Zipcar)

Car sharing has already caught on, but a new study from ABI Research says the trend will continue to grow as self-driving cars make their way into society.

The study predicts 400 million people will rely on “robotic car sharing” by 2030, adding that this robotic service will become “the ultimate form of transportation for its availability, convenience, and affordability.”

“Car sharing is successful because the increased efficiency through higher vehicle utilization rates drives down costs, which results in more affordable transportation,” says Dominique Bonte, Managing Director and VP at ABI Research. “Why go through the expense of purchasing a car, and then regular insurance and maintenance fees, when we can all embrace the new car sharing economy?

Bonte said the car sharing economy is a classic example of crowd-sourcing and is driving many GenY supporters. He said the benefits extend beyond collaboration, and include the ability to monetize personal assets and real-time matching of supply and demand.

However, a recent poll from Morning Consult found Americans aren’t quite ready for self-driving cars. Maybe they will be by 2030, but currently 43 percent of those who took the poll said driverless cars are not safe - and this was before Google’s self-driving car crashed into a public transit bus.

More than 75 percent of voters expressed concerns about road safety, glitches, and having self-driving cars share the road with traditional cars. And 51 percent of voters said they wouldn’t ride in one.

Young people and men were mostly likely to see driverless cars as safe. Forty-five percent of 18- to 29-year-olds said they believed the technology to be safe, while only 25 percent of people over the age of 65 said the same. Similarly, 44 percent of men said they were safe, compared to just 21 percent of women.

And it seems Zipcar, the world’s largest car-sharing service, is on board with the arrival of self-driving cars. President Kaye Ceille recently wrote that Zipcar has “always envisioned a world where car sharers outnumber car owners, and we believe that the broad adoption of autonomous vehicles will be what turns that vision into a reality. The onset of self-driving cars will usher in a new era of mobility-as-a-service.”

Zipcar has certainly made moves to prepare for this technological shift by establishing the ZipLabs R&D environment, joining forces with the University of Michigan Mobility Transformation Center, and building out its team of engineers. Ceille added, “while no one can really predict exactly when self-driving cars will hit the roads, and how truly autonomous they will be when they do, one thing is true: it’s no longer a question of “if” but “when.” And when that time comes, we’ll be in the driver’s seat.”




About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
Contact Steve Crowe: scrowe@ehpub.com  ·  View More by Steve Crowe.




Comments

Totally_Lost · March 16, 2016 · 6:04 pm

The aerial regulation part is actually easier, as it’s a single federal agency, with reasonable safety requirements and congress pushing to expand this market.

On the ground, we have already seen individual states with differing regulations ... a stance that becomes expensive in the end, if a single federal DOT rule doesn’t stop it from expanding.

The engineering problems are actually a lot easier for a number of reasons, with the exception of few possibly overly restrictive FAA regulations. The FAA does have a good track record of adapting to change, as long as there is good engineering data, and test/performance data, to justify it from a safety perspective.

From a social perspective, aerial transportation is much more likely to be safer than current automotive death rates. Increasing the number of aerial flights will simply by statistics drive up FAA reportable deaths, but if we can maintain the death rates per aerial mile, or better them, then EVERYTHING we do should drive total deaths (aerial and ground) down significantly. And that I think is a good stance to take with the FAA for regulation modification to balance regulation, costs, and improved loss of life over less safe ground alternatives.

Totally_Lost · March 16, 2016 · 1:51 pm

Now I said earlier that there were some twists for aerial battery requirements. For a given flight system, the energy required is a function of the weight of the cargo pod and distance ... where heavier loads and longer trips require significantly more power than battery alone.

If by design we put 90% or more of the flight energy in the detachable cargo pod, that means the flight system can remain in the air for as long as the energy in the cargo pod will allow. Heavy cargo pods that require longer distances will require a hybrid energy source. Lighter cargo pods with only short trips, can be battery only, and charged on the ground between trips. The flight system can carry enough battery for emergency reserve and landings.

Now consider what kinds of cargo pods are useful.

1) both one and two seat pods for general transportation are certainly useful, possibly pods for up to 10 place for use with heavier lift flight systems.

2) consider a case where ones work cell is a personal pod ... ones own office, or ones tool/work space for a person in the trades like a plumber, electrician, mechanic, etc that can be delivered to the current work site.

3) consider a case where a cargo pod is actually a fire retardant spray pod for wild land fire fighting to protect structures and ground crews.

4) consider a case where a cargo pod is actually a water/food delivery pod for cattle/sheep out on the range.

5) consider a case where the cargo pod is in a combat area providing logistics support.

Steve Crowe · March 16, 2016 · 1:47 pm

I’m fully on board, I just don’t think it’s as easy, tech- and regulation-wise, as you make it seem. How about this. You can be the brains of the operation, I’ll be the PR flack.

Totally_Lost · March 16, 2016 · 1:09 pm

So Steve ... when should we stop dreaming about jetson aerial cars, and start doing this?

Totally_Lost · March 16, 2016 · 1:07 pm

With current private ground transportation there has to be a dedicated parking area and access aisle that is about 500 sqft per vehicle at the residence, place of work, shopping, and entertainment areas. This comes with significant land, construction, and maintenance costs. For most employers these costs are significant in comparison to employee work area costs. This single factor increases urban sprawl, and decreases available farm/recreation land by a factor of two or more.

More importantly, it increases the cost of goods and services uniformly across our entire society as a hidden cost and tax, which contributes to economic waste, and lower wages.

The lost productivity of ground transportation lowers quality of life, and a forced cost on every individual in our society.

yeah, this is the way we have ALWAYS been doing things ... but is it REALLY the BEST way?

Lower the cost of transportation infrastructure across our society and governments ... and pass those cost savings back into wages and better quality of life.

Totally_Lost · March 16, 2016 · 12:36 pm

So how do we transition to shared pilot-less aerial drones in a relatively short period of time, like 2030? The answer is lowering personal/corporate costs for transportation with a system that is nearly equally accessible with less time in vehicle.

First shared implies a combination of public transportation (like subway, bus, light rail) and private transportation (taxi, shuttle, corporate/personal owned). This makes some sense since utilization of urban ground vehicles for personal transportation is typically less than 2% of typical persons time annually, and would approach less than 1% for aerial transportation. The areas where the urban commute time is higher, is typically from high congestion rush hour trips, and where residential housing is highly separated from business/commercial areas.

The annual cost of ownership for a car is a combination of depreciation, insurance, fuel, and maintenance, with a typical annual total between $3,500 to $12,000 per vehicle. Most families have 2-4 vehicles, at an annual cost of $8,000 to $50,000.

Initially replacing all but one ground vehicle in a family with shared aerial transportation can be done strictly on a cost savings basis, by lightly increasing taxes for multiple vehicle ownership, fuel, parking infrastructure, and vehicle disposal. Then offering free aerial drone transportation for up to 3 trips per day, and lightly charging for additional trips, where the cost to operate the fleet is taken from these new tax sources plus a portion of current road infrastructure and fuel revenue. Longer term the system is paid for by property taxes, which include taxes for parking areas as an incentive to reduce ground access and contribute to shared public aerial transportation.

Private ownership of aerial transportation drones would not be limited by anything other than relative cost of ownership with public transportation alternatives.

To improve the utilization factor of the aerial drones, they should be configurable for both human transportation, and freight transportation, most likely by using a common flight system with a detachable cargo pod configured to it’s intended trip. This significantly lowers the cost of ownership per aerial drone, as it has multiple revenue sources to cover depreciation.

Totally_Lost · March 16, 2016 · 11:09 am

The primary problems of built-in obstacle avoidance and traffic infrastructure have to be resolved before Google delivery and all it’s competitors get off the ground .... I’m assuming you are betting strongly that dream isn’t going to happen by 2030.

As for battery life, it’s a slight variation of the ground EV problem with some interesting twists. First I said “hybrid drones” fully aware that we need more than battery to stay in the air very long, just as hybrid cars for range. A hybrid approach using CNG/LNG/LPG fuels is probably a better design in the near term, and we can wait for the physics boys to perfect the Back to the Future fusion systems longer term smile.

The good part is that there are no more traffic jams, low efficiency stop and go driving, stop lights/signs, and concentration of pollutants along heavily travelled roads that cause SIGNIFICANT health problems for those that live within a mile of those routes.

Most short trips can also be done completely on battery with a drone, and travel times are a mere fraction of ground transportation.

Even if ground replacement traffic is limited to 400ft to 2,000ft AGL and separated from general aviation airspace, with clearly defined traffic lanes based on velocity and direction, the aerial traffic density is at worst a VERY VERY small fraction of a percent of todays ground traffic density. If a Google self driving car can handle high density ground traffic and pedestrians using a combination of vision and LIDAR, then an aerial system where every object in motion transmits it’s flight path, location, and velocity vector does not have the high AI requirements that less safe ground systems with non-deterministic players (humans/dogs/deer/etc) in the path.

So, just from a cost and safety point of view, VERY SAFE aerial drone transportation is a SIGNIFICANTLY easier engineering problem.

Maybe I’m dreaming ... but I’m DAMN SURE the ground drone guys are REALLY dreaming in comparison

Steve Crowe · March 15, 2016 · 8:01 pm

I think you’re dreaming a bit. smile Obviously the drones would need to come with built-in obstacle avoidance, which shouldn’t be an issue by then, but what about traffic infrastructure, battery life, etc.?

Also, I’m not sure about this whole car sharing thing. Sure, it works for young professionals who live outside major cities, but what happens when you get old like me and have a family and need to get places ASAP? Relying on a car-sharing service, no thanks

Totally_Lost · March 15, 2016 · 6:44 pm

I really hope by 2030 that shared pilot-less aerial drones are the primary replacement for automobiles, and absolutely hate the idea we have to spend the billions of dollars maintaining the millions of square miles of asphalt and concrete roadways, bridges, and parking areas. Just replanting that with grasses and trees is a major carbon sink for CO2.

The Jetson era shouldn’t be that far away, when we can easily build safe, fully redundant, multi-rotor hybrid drones that can fly at 500-900lbs.


Totally_Lost · March 15, 2016 at 6:44 pm

I really hope by 2030 that shared pilot-less aerial drones are the primary replacement for automobiles, and absolutely hate the idea we have to spend the billions of dollars maintaining the millions of square miles of asphalt and concrete roadways, bridges, and parking areas. Just replanting that with grasses and trees is a major carbon sink for CO2.

The Jetson era shouldn’t be that far away, when we can easily build safe, fully redundant, multi-rotor hybrid drones that can fly at 500-900lbs.

Steve Crowe · March 15, 2016 at 8:01 pm

I think you’re dreaming a bit. smile Obviously the drones would need to come with built-in obstacle avoidance, which shouldn’t be an issue by then, but what about traffic infrastructure, battery life, etc.?

Also, I’m not sure about this whole car sharing thing. Sure, it works for young professionals who live outside major cities, but what happens when you get old like me and have a family and need to get places ASAP? Relying on a car-sharing service, no thanks

Totally_Lost · March 16, 2016 at 11:09 am

The primary problems of built-in obstacle avoidance and traffic infrastructure have to be resolved before Google delivery and all it’s competitors get off the ground .... I’m assuming you are betting strongly that dream isn’t going to happen by 2030.

As for battery life, it’s a slight variation of the ground EV problem with some interesting twists. First I said “hybrid drones” fully aware that we need more than battery to stay in the air very long, just as hybrid cars for range. A hybrid approach using CNG/LNG/LPG fuels is probably a better design in the near term, and we can wait for the physics boys to perfect the Back to the Future fusion systems longer term smile.

The good part is that there are no more traffic jams, low efficiency stop and go driving, stop lights/signs, and concentration of pollutants along heavily travelled roads that cause SIGNIFICANT health problems for those that live within a mile of those routes.

Most short trips can also be done completely on battery with a drone, and travel times are a mere fraction of ground transportation.

Even if ground replacement traffic is limited to 400ft to 2,000ft AGL and separated from general aviation airspace, with clearly defined traffic lanes based on velocity and direction, the aerial traffic density is at worst a VERY VERY small fraction of a percent of todays ground traffic density. If a Google self driving car can handle high density ground traffic and pedestrians using a combination of vision and LIDAR, then an aerial system where every object in motion transmits it’s flight path, location, and velocity vector does not have the high AI requirements that less safe ground systems with non-deterministic players (humans/dogs/deer/etc) in the path.

So, just from a cost and safety point of view, VERY SAFE aerial drone transportation is a SIGNIFICANTLY easier engineering problem.

Maybe I’m dreaming ... but I’m DAMN SURE the ground drone guys are REALLY dreaming in comparison

Totally_Lost · March 16, 2016 at 12:36 pm

So how do we transition to shared pilot-less aerial drones in a relatively short period of time, like 2030? The answer is lowering personal/corporate costs for transportation with a system that is nearly equally accessible with less time in vehicle.

First shared implies a combination of public transportation (like subway, bus, light rail) and private transportation (taxi, shuttle, corporate/personal owned). This makes some sense since utilization of urban ground vehicles for personal transportation is typically less than 2% of typical persons time annually, and would approach less than 1% for aerial transportation. The areas where the urban commute time is higher, is typically from high congestion rush hour trips, and where residential housing is highly separated from business/commercial areas.

The annual cost of ownership for a car is a combination of depreciation, insurance, fuel, and maintenance, with a typical annual total between $3,500 to $12,000 per vehicle. Most families have 2-4 vehicles, at an annual cost of $8,000 to $50,000.

Initially replacing all but one ground vehicle in a family with shared aerial transportation can be done strictly on a cost savings basis, by lightly increasing taxes for multiple vehicle ownership, fuel, parking infrastructure, and vehicle disposal. Then offering free aerial drone transportation for up to 3 trips per day, and lightly charging for additional trips, where the cost to operate the fleet is taken from these new tax sources plus a portion of current road infrastructure and fuel revenue. Longer term the system is paid for by property taxes, which include taxes for parking areas as an incentive to reduce ground access and contribute to shared public aerial transportation.

Private ownership of aerial transportation drones would not be limited by anything other than relative cost of ownership with public transportation alternatives.

To improve the utilization factor of the aerial drones, they should be configurable for both human transportation, and freight transportation, most likely by using a common flight system with a detachable cargo pod configured to it’s intended trip. This significantly lowers the cost of ownership per aerial drone, as it has multiple revenue sources to cover depreciation.

Totally_Lost · March 16, 2016 at 1:07 pm

With current private ground transportation there has to be a dedicated parking area and access aisle that is about 500 sqft per vehicle at the residence, place of work, shopping, and entertainment areas. This comes with significant land, construction, and maintenance costs. For most employers these costs are significant in comparison to employee work area costs. This single factor increases urban sprawl, and decreases available farm/recreation land by a factor of two or more.

More importantly, it increases the cost of goods and services uniformly across our entire society as a hidden cost and tax, which contributes to economic waste, and lower wages.

The lost productivity of ground transportation lowers quality of life, and a forced cost on every individual in our society.

yeah, this is the way we have ALWAYS been doing things ... but is it REALLY the BEST way?

Lower the cost of transportation infrastructure across our society and governments ... and pass those cost savings back into wages and better quality of life.

Totally_Lost · March 16, 2016 at 1:09 pm

So Steve ... when should we stop dreaming about jetson aerial cars, and start doing this?

Steve Crowe · March 16, 2016 at 1:47 pm

I’m fully on board, I just don’t think it’s as easy, tech- and regulation-wise, as you make it seem. How about this. You can be the brains of the operation, I’ll be the PR flack.

Totally_Lost · March 16, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Now I said earlier that there were some twists for aerial battery requirements. For a given flight system, the energy required is a function of the weight of the cargo pod and distance ... where heavier loads and longer trips require significantly more power than battery alone.

If by design we put 90% or more of the flight energy in the detachable cargo pod, that means the flight system can remain in the air for as long as the energy in the cargo pod will allow. Heavy cargo pods that require longer distances will require a hybrid energy source. Lighter cargo pods with only short trips, can be battery only, and charged on the ground between trips. The flight system can carry enough battery for emergency reserve and landings.

Now consider what kinds of cargo pods are useful.

1) both one and two seat pods for general transportation are certainly useful, possibly pods for up to 10 place for use with heavier lift flight systems.

2) consider a case where ones work cell is a personal pod ... ones own office, or ones tool/work space for a person in the trades like a plumber, electrician, mechanic, etc that can be delivered to the current work site.

3) consider a case where a cargo pod is actually a fire retardant spray pod for wild land fire fighting to protect structures and ground crews.

4) consider a case where a cargo pod is actually a water/food delivery pod for cattle/sheep out on the range.

5) consider a case where the cargo pod is in a combat area providing logistics support.

Totally_Lost · March 16, 2016 at 6:04 pm

The aerial regulation part is actually easier, as it’s a single federal agency, with reasonable safety requirements and congress pushing to expand this market.

On the ground, we have already seen individual states with differing regulations ... a stance that becomes expensive in the end, if a single federal DOT rule doesn’t stop it from expanding.

The engineering problems are actually a lot easier for a number of reasons, with the exception of few possibly overly restrictive FAA regulations. The FAA does have a good track record of adapting to change, as long as there is good engineering data, and test/performance data, to justify it from a safety perspective.

From a social perspective, aerial transportation is much more likely to be safer than current automotive death rates. Increasing the number of aerial flights will simply by statistics drive up FAA reportable deaths, but if we can maintain the death rates per aerial mile, or better them, then EVERYTHING we do should drive total deaths (aerial and ground) down significantly. And that I think is a good stance to take with the FAA for regulation modification to balance regulation, costs, and improved loss of life over less safe ground alternatives.


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