|By Cieslewicz, Dave|
Madison's controversy over ride^sharing apps is only the start
There's a spirited debate going on in Madison and cities all over America about new smartphone apps that act like cab services. The traditional cab companies make a case that the apps unfairly compete with the heavily regulated cab industry, although you could also argue that the same regulations reduce competition.
Wherever you come down on that debate, we ain't seen nothin' yet. It's not hard to imagine a world where cabs are everywhere while cabbies (and their Uber and Lyft driver competitors) go the way of coopers and cobblers.
Those apps are one-third of a trifecta that could change the driving world and, well, just the world. It seems almost inevitable that these order-a-car-online apps will be combined with car sharing and driverless cars to revolutionize how we get around.
The apps and car sharing, like Madison's Community Car or the national
It's not hard to imagine a future where nobody has to own a car. You would just use your smartphone to order one, and it would arrive at your front door ready to take you safely wherever you want to go. The car drops you at your destination and moves on to the next customer.
This could be the mother of all disruptive technologies. Let's consider some of the implications.
It would make driving (and biking and walking) much safer. The technology can respond to an impending crash a whole lot faster than a human driver can. And the technology never drives drunk, never drives while fumbling with its cell phone and never gets overcome with road rage.
It would be great for cities. One estimate is that a third of American cities are taken up by parking spaces. Imagine the increase in value and the improvement in urban life without all that wasted, ugly space. In this light, Madison should rethink its plan to build an incredibly expensive 1,200-car parking ramp as part of the Judge
It would be positive for mobility. We are a rapidly aging society, with all the infirmities that come with it.
It would be good for the environment. If I drive my car, on average, an hour a day, then I'm using it just 4% of the time. The other 96% it just sits in my driveway or in a parking lot. It's an incredible waste of resources, both in terms of all the resources that went into building the vehicle itself and in terms of the space taken up for car parking. Because driverless cars would be in use virtually all day long, they would be a much more efficient use of resources. And because the cars would be owned by companies that had entire fleets, they would have maximum incentive to make those cars as energy-efficient as possible.
It would be good for productivity. In