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Friday, October 31, 2008

An Entreprenurial Idea

The Avee Idea, stated simply:

Preconditions:
1. People have browser-capable phones (already true)
2. The technology needed for cars to safely drive themselves (fully autonomous vehicles) has declined significantly in price to around the one-thousand dollar range. (feasible within five to ten years)

Business model: Create an online auction marketplace (ala eBay) where people can (A:) bid for the use of other peoples’ vehicles and (B:) offer their own vehicle for others’ use.

Set it up such that:
1. Users can request a ride from their phone’s browser
2. The service finds the location of the requester and matches it to the best available vehicle in terms of cost and time-to-wait, which could be adjusted to user preferences.
3. the service instructs the vehicle to move to the requestor’s location
4. when the ride is completed, the requestor pays via online transaction, the owner of the vehicle gets the fare, and the service takes a commission.

Results:
1. Demand for flexible and cheap transportation helps drive the acceptance of autonomous vehicle technology.
2. Highway crashes and deaths decrease as adoption of the technology increases
3. Fewer new cars are needed; their market price falls.
4. Market forces exert greater influence on individual’s transportation patterns, since driving at off-peak hours would be less expensive. Thus, highway congestion is reduced.
5. As the population of autonomous vehicles comes to dominate, lanes might be designated for their use where they could operate at the optimally efficient speed, thus reducing pollution. (eg: since traffic jams could be avoided, there wouldn’t be thousands of cars idling at a standstill for hours).
6. A case could be made for privatizing major roads, since the infrastructure would be in place to support an equitable pay-for-use model. This could also have a positive effect on traffic patterns, since variable use-rates could be charged and people would have further incentive to travel at off-peak times.
7. The more efficient use of existing capacity would reduce the need to spend billions expanding that capacity. The tax money currently designated to those future projects could be returned (ha! unlikely) or used to pay off government debt (the sad reality is that it would probably just get used for something else).

From one perspective, this sounds like "privately-owned public transportation", which is a concept I've never heard before. Everyone benefits: people who cant afford cars (or don’t want to waste their money on them) can buy flexible transportation more cheaply than they could ride a bus. The environment benefits, since its more efficient move people around in cars than busses (planning for peak capacity means that busses are empty more often than not). Car owners benefit because their car can do something more than just depreciate when they’re not using it. Oh, and people don't die tragically on the freeway every day.

The thing that I think is so cool about the idea is that all this societal benefit could be attained without involving the government. The only thing required of government is that they not prohibit it. Of course, asking that much may be a strech, but if they can manage it, I think that market forces can take care of the rest.

Here are some previous posts on the subject: my orginal whitepaper, also an ambigram of the word AVEE that could be used for a logo, some thoughts on what the marketing of the service might look like, and an expansion of the acronym.