Sunday, May 26, 2019

Let’s find many ways to share the goods of our society

Ideas can improve society. But they can also be destructive.

Image Credit: Brad Aronson

In the 1940s, my father had a vision.  Let’s have all the cars in the society by owned by the government.  Any citizen with a license could walk down the street and pick up a government car that was parked at the side of the road.  The citizen would drive the car to a destination, park it, and someone else could use the car.

Car sharing like that would reduce traffic by three-quarters, for sure.  In our day, with computers, we could keep track of car usage and charge citizens a fair amount.  Of course, now we have Uber and Lyft, but these require drivers and the cost is much higher than my father’s idea.

But are there other ideas that would fall into this realm?  There’s NeighborShopping in which you do shopping for neighbors for a small fee.  A lot of Costco customer do shopping for friends because you need a membership.  This is a good idea. Uber has Uberhealth.  (shared cars for medical uses).  It is also working on Uber Elevate, which is shared urban aerial ride-sharing.  If this idea takes off, it will change urban transportation.

My own idea for air transport is to have passengers fill out their desire for flights.  For instance, they could say they want to travel from Los Angeles to Cincinnati between June 1 and 10 and enter their highest ticket price for the trip.  All the airlines would have access to the wish list, and if there were enough people wanting that trip, the airline could provide it. In effect, the passengers would be directing the flights, not the airline companies.  There are all sorts of things we could do or try with computers.

Example: I was walking down the street in Mexico and I saw a Jumex truck pulled up in from the road to a little market.  And I saw Bimbo trucks riding about and other trucks with other brands. Why don’t these companies share space on trucks?  After all, many of them are delivering to the same markets! It would save money and reduce traffic if one truck handled all the deliveries to the same marketplace.  And, by the way, we have Delivery Hero, GrubHub, and other companies delivering to customers.  It would make sense to have one company’s truck delivering everything to a particular neighborhood.  It can be done; people just need to get their minds and businesses organized appropriately.

We know that Uber and Lyft work.  Well, why not combine that idea with NeighborSHopping?  If you’re driving somewhere and you spot someone who wants to go in the same direction (you can pick that up from a Tweet on your cell phone), why shouldn’t you be allowed to pick them up and charge them?  It’s just ride-sharing. All you need is appropriate insurance – and laws need to be changed to allow you to do it. Would it be dangerous? Why should it be? If both driver and passenger are registered , then we know that they were riding together.  Having a system like that would share cars and cut traffic.

I’d like to allow drivers to use large sedans, so that they can take several passengers at one time.  That would make the ride sharing even more efficient.

Instead of moving in this direction, the corporations are trying self-drive cars – and thereby eliminating millions of jobs. The cost of investing in self-drive cars is high, while changing the insurance rules is cheap. Plus it uses existing technology and allows human beings to work.  That’s very important. Eliminating jobs through automation will lead to social unhappiness.  

Ideas can improve society.  But they can also be destructive.  One of the sharing trends that I like best is Air BnB which has individuals share their homes to out of town guests.  Unfortunately, this trend has been abused by wealthy people who buy up properties to uses for Air BnB.  The result in some areas has been a scarcity of property for residences. Of course, municipalities could end this trend by requiring Air BnBs to be occupied by the owners as residences.  This was the original idea. And it would prevent the businesses from gobbling up property and taking it off the market.

Uber and Lyft have their bad sides.  In New York, taxi drivers needed to own a medallion, which at one point cost thousands of dollars. At their highest price, they were worth $1.3 million each, but the price dropped to $160,000 because of Lyft and Uber competition.  The loss in value has caused suicides among New York taxi drivers.

In other words, we need to be careful.  Good ideas can also result in bad things.

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