Jan 3, 2020 - Technology

Ride-sharing of the future

Illustration of a tire split like a pie, with hands reaching to grab the slices

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Auto companies, counterintuitively, are trying to get people to give up their cars — by making shared transportation more appealing with vehicles that recognize you, anticipate your needs and customize your ride.

Why it matters: Ride-hailing apps are making urban congestion steadily worse. In San Francisco, people spent 62% more time sitting in traffic in 2016 than in 2010. Uber and Lyft admitted they're part of the problem.

Driving the news: In Las Vegas next week at CES, the world's largest tech show, carmakers and other suppliers will offer the most advanced look yet at their plans for ride-sharing of the future.

  • Continental, a big auto tech supplier, will showcase technology that builds trust by updating passengers on their ride status while providing tailored messages and information on points of interest, upcoming events or connecting transportation.
  • Valeo will demonstrate acoustic technology that uses active noise cancellation to create a personalized media and communication zone so passengers can select who in a shared vehicle can hear them speak, and when.

What they're saying: "We need to move beyond the car," argued Cruise CEO Dan Ammann in a recent blog post, a remarkable statement for a former president of General Motors, one of the world's largest carmakers.

  • Cruise, he wrote, plans to reduce congestion by making shared rides "more compelling by providing an awesome experience at a radically lower cost."
  • "If our roadways are not getting any bigger, we need to use them more effectively, which means shifting some people into higher-volume forms of transit," May Mobility CEO Alisyn Malek tells Axios.
  • "We don't pretend that self-driving cars as a technology platform can solve the larger-scale issues around congestion and efficiency," Argo AI CEO Bryan Salesky said in an interview. But, he said, shared AVs can help by plugging gaps in existing transportation systems.

Yes, but: Convincing more people to use shared transportation is a hard sell, as Ford learned with its defunct Chariot private shuttle bus service.

  • Mass transit accounts for just 1% of all U.S. passenger miles traveled, and just 2% of total trips, according to the University of California-Davis.

The bottom line: With the right combination of incentives — something more than a comfortable seat and a robust internet connection — people might be persuaded to leave their cars at home.

  • The most important carrot could be convenience: In New York, bus ridership soared after a car ban on 14th Street cleared the way for buses, shortening travel time by 30%.
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