Uber is bad, for the most part. It has tended to cause an increase in road traffic and pollution. It has also been far from profitable (though it might have turned a small profit last year), despite not paying its drivers or food-couriers well.
So, here are two half-baked alternatives, Youber and Twober. They would, perhaps, create less traffic or pollution than Uber, and be more efficient and sustainable for drivers or investors as well. I don’t expect they will actually ever happen, or that they would be successful if they did, but hey, you never know:
- Youber – a combination of ride-sharing, smart-car car-sharing, and deliveries
You and your spouse (or friend, etc.) are going out for dinner and drinks. You know you could drive to the restaurant, but you know you probably won’t be able to drive home afterwards. And you would rather avoid having to look for parking downtown anyway. So you order a Youber. Your Youber driver is in a smart-car, and luckily is already nearby, delivering food or a package or a single passenger in your neighbourhood. The Youber driver comes to your house, removes an e-bicycle from the back of the smart-car, gives you the smart-car, and continues on his or her way on the e-bike. You then drive the smart-car with your spouse to your destination, and park relatively easily because it’s a smart-car.
After dinner, if one of you is still sober and if the smart-car is still there, you can use it to drive home. If not, you can order a normal cab or, better yet, take transit or walk. The Youber driver/courier, meanwhile, could either spend the rest of his or her shift making deliveries on the e-bike, or else use the e-bike to travel to the nearest available Youber smart-car, and so begin the process afresh.
2. Twober – a combination of ride-sharing, car-sharing, and battery-trailer-range-extender electric cars
Taxi drivers often have to work long shifts to make ends meet. This creates at least two problems:
- long shifts of city driving are tiring and stressful. This is bad for the driver, and potentially dangerous. Governments place restrictions on shift-lengths, but shifts can still be quite long, and shift-length restrictions can also make it harder for drivers to earn the income they need.
- Long shifts make it difficult for taxis to switch to using electric cars, because the time they spend charging their batteries is time they are not earning money transporting passengers or making deliveries. Battery-charging – even “fast-charging” – is a far slower process than filling up a gas tank of a conventional car. Fast-charing stations also have their own significant economic and environmental challenges that may be impossible to overcome. Taxi drivers might be able to avoid having to charge their batteries multiple times during the day by buying vehicles with much larger batteries, but these too have economic and environmental challenges.
Twober aims at solving both of these problems, so that taxi drivers can have the option of working without becoming tired or stressed or violating shift-length restrictions, and so that they can drive electric cars without wasting time (and creating other problems) charging their car batteries during their shifts.
Here’s how it works. First, the Twober vehicle uses a battery-trailer range-extender. This will give the vehicle a range that might be able to make it through an entire workday of driving. It could, for example, be driven without a trailer in the morning, and then with a trailer in the evening after the car’s own battery has been drained. If necessary, the battery trailer could also be swapped out during the day for a new, pre-charged battery trailer, and this could be done much more quickly than even fast-charging a drained battery could be.
Second, the Twober gives you, the passenger, the option of driving, while the driver stays in the car and rests (and rates your driving with a star system). You don’t need to take up this option – you could use the vehicle as a regular taxi instead (well, regular apart from the battery trailer). The taxi driver also does not need to offer it.
But if he or she does offer you the wheel, and if you accept, then you get a somewhat cheaper fare in return, and you don’t need to worry about a recklessly driving taxi driver, and you get an opportunity to test-drive an electric car. (And not just any electric car, but a strange and much more economical and environmentally-friendly type of electric car than you would ever otherwise be likely to try). Best of all, you don’t need to find parking, because you can just hand the car back over to the driver when you arrive at your destination.
The taxi driver, meanwhile, gets a chance to rest during a long shift, and perhaps could even use the time in the passenger seat in some other, useful way. The Twober vehicle might also have some extra safety measures for the taxi driver, such as override systems similar to what driving-instructor cars have. (The Twober vehicle, with the battery-trailer taken off, might even be able to double as a driving-instructor car, to make some extra bucks).
Twober is therefore about keeping two batteries charged – the literal batteries of the electric car, and the figurative batteries of the taxi driver.