Moving People, Not Cars

This week we were tagged in a video by Mobility Lab about the future of mobility titled Filling up seats in cars: The future of driving in which the main theme was “moving people instead of just cars.” The theme of the video was related to my question in last week’s blog: Can the slate of carpooling apps change the resistance of Americans to carpooling? I loved the video because in less than 5 minutes one understands the big changes that our society is undergoing.

Technology can help fix market inefficiencies

Tyler Duvall of McKinsey & Company stresses the fact that every time they saw a technology taking off was when a technology was tapping into an inefficiency or information gap – and for some reason in transportation we didn’t think that these existed. But with 85% of all cars on the road having only one person in them, the inefficiency of all those empty car seats is striking. And isn’t it true that we, as parents, simply ignore a surplus of transportation capacity that could help eliminate 30% of the entire traffic on the road in the morning and afternoons? Yes, these are fellow parents driving exactly the same or a very similar route to the one we take every morning to school, from school, or to the many other after school activities.

When thinking of this mismatch of readily available technology (GPS, mapping, social communication) and the problem in front of me (too much driving, too little time, too much traffic in our neighborhoods) the need for a solution was so apparent that I couldn’t help but do something about it. Hence the idea of making carpooling for parents easier by creating a technology that will help solve the problem for millions of parents – GoKid.

But maybe technology alone is not enough

In the video Emily Castor of Lyft—the ridesharing company that now offers carpooling as their default option—talks about the information that needs to be available to facilitate sharing excess seats in cars. Data sets like those originating from the popular mapping app Waze were something city planners were dreaming of only five years ago. So if the technology is there, why don’t people operate differently?

Paul Steinberg of Carma a technology for sharing commutes addresses a good point: The technology is in fact there, from BlaBlaCar to Carma to nascent technologies like GoKid, but it takes longer to bring about a behavioral change.

Behavioral changes are on the horizon

Luckily, it no longer takes decades for new technologies to take off. We see changes of behaviors in unlikely places:

  • Via, a transportation service launched in New York has tapped into an unlikely demographic: senior citizens needing rides within the city. Who would have thought that senior citizens would jump on the bandwagon of shared mobility?
  • Millennials are buying fewer cars than previous generations and they are refusing to move to the suburbs as easily as previous generations.
  • Multi-modal transportation is picking up: Who would have thought that bike sharing would take off in a car-centric (and potentially very dangerous) city like New York? Citi Bike proclaimed its 10 millionth ride last year and the service is set to expand. Nationwide, bike sharing has hit over 60 cities.

As Joshua Schank, of the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority puts it, “It doesn’t take that much change to increase traffic flow at peak times, if you just have a small percentage of people choosing—I’ll go a little later, a little earlier, take mass transit, I’ll bike—all the sudden you free up the conditions on the road pretty dramatically.”

And maybe most importantly, if people suddenly discover what to do with all the extra time they don’t spend driving alone, it will be hard to go back.

GoKid is excited to be part of the future of mobility in which the transportation of people (in our kids, little people) are the goal, not moving cars.