On his blog today, Scott Adams’ put forth an idea of how to handily deal with a laundry list of problems plaguing the world today, including energy consumption and international oil dependence, terrorism, drunk driving and pollution. (And a few other items that are so politically-charged and boring to me that I won’t bother to mention.) To sum it up in a heavily hyphenated sentence, GPS-phone-enabled, Google-powered car-pooling.
Basically using the power of your GPS-enabled phone and a service provided by some behemoth like Google, people could enter a destination and automatically be connected with somebody heading that way. Web 2.0 hitchhiking, essentially. And in an attempt to anticipate problems that might arise from hitching the ride with the wrong person, you would be able to configure your service to filter out people based upon a number of predefined criteria. (Age, sex, propensity to mistreat kittens, etc.) Also, applicants to the service would be screened to eliminate obvious problems such as ax-murders and sexual predators. And anyone who forwards chain email.
In all, a pretty well consider solution. If you haven’t read it already, give it a read. Because I’m going to address the flaw I see in the system. The biggest problem I see with it is that people just don’t like sharing their ride with other people. If you’ve ridden a bus or the subway, you know you can’t count on people to bathe or be considerate. And if you’re commuting to or from work, you’re probably tired and just want to be left alone. Even with the incentives built into Mr. Adams’ plan, it will only take one sick drunk on a Friday night to change your mind about carpooling.
So the plan is doomed for failure, right? Well, not quite. This is where Brian steps in and harness the power of his caffeine-infused cranium to save the day. With mind bullets! No, wait, sorry, the mind bullets are for another post. I got carried away. :)
Anyway, what we actually need is to revamp the way the bus system works. I’m talking about literally gutting the buses. (Stick with me here, it’ll make sense in a minute.) Here’s how it will work. The same system Mr. Adams described with the GPS-enhanced phone and ride sharing service would apply here. Except, you would dock that phone in a “CarPod” (hey, everybody else is ripping off the iPod, why not me?). A CarPod will be a small, solar-powered, single person vehicle. Kinda like the Smart car shown above, except a lot smaller, and lot more boxy. A bit more like a large phone booth with really cozy chair.
When you need a ride someplace, you hop in a CarPod, dock your uber-phone, enter your destination and it will coordinate with the nearest bus. Either you or the CarPod drives to a nearby intercept point with the bus. (We’ll say the CarPod does it, because we’re talking about the future, and cars just have to drive themselves in the future.) And here’s the cool part; the reason you’ve been reading this post. Instead of getting out of your CarPod to get on the bus, the CarPod docks with the bus and takes you along with it. You see, the bus is merely a large, green-fuel-propelled CarPod carrier. Kinda like the transports shown in this action sequence from I, Robot:
Except instead of being full of evil, human-killing robots, it’d be full of evil, meeting-calling, email-sending co-workers. Tell me you wouldn’t ride the bus all the time if you could do it in a CarPod.
Why the bus? Because buses already cover more ground in the U.S. than any other form of mass transportation. And because it uses existing road systems. We wouldn’t have to dig large expensive tunnels through cities to accommodate this. We could also outfit the existing subway trains to function in a similar way, which would also be cool, but not as practical.
Of course, the CarPod would have many of the features of the modern car, and a few that aren’t legal, like user-controlled window blackening. And television. Just for fun, here are the kind of features I imagine the CarPod having.
- User controlled window blackening. This way you can have all the privacy you could possibly want while still riding mass transit. You could sleep, or even change on your way to or from work. You could even work on your secret plans for world domination without need of one of those laptop privacy screens.
- Cozy reclining chair. The CarPod will be small, but not airplane-seat-small.
- Air Conditioning. No brainer.
- Television/Music playing system. Who knows what crazy space-age way we’ll listen to tunes and watch the tube in the future. Rest assured that it will be very compact, whatever it is, and that the CarPod will have it. It will likely be integrated with your futuristic GPS-enabled phone.
- Steering system. In case you need to actually drive the thing. Which you won’t. But it’ll be there because some politician or another will make a big deal about it. And probably an organized group of overly concerned mothers.
- Built in humidor. Since I’m making this thing, it will have a humidor and a cigar-sized ash tray. And a built in cigar lighter. Hey, it’s single occupancy, so don’t give me any crap about bothering other people with second hand tobacco perfume.
Now quick, somebody build one, because I want to ride my CarPod home from the office. I’m tired.
P.S. I’ve trademarked the term “CarPod”. And “Commuti-Car”, just in case. Licensing available! And at great rates!