Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cars are like 2-liter Sodas

Two-liter sodas are meant for parties: to be consumed by lots of people on special occasions and in a short period of time. If you buy a 2-liter soda under other conditions, you usually end up drinking too much yourself or letting some go to waste.

Cars are like that. Despite the fact that we usually drive alone, and that we don’t drive 24, or even 12, and not even 6 hours a day, cars are only sold in the big gulp size. And so, we consume them too much in our efforts to get our money’s worth, and lots of our car’s value goes to waste.

Traditional carsharing lets some people consume just the amount of car they want. But small-minded documents (leases and insurance documents) make it illegal to share your own car with someone else for money, or to formally pay an individual to use their car.
If we want to have fewer cars in cities and towns, and fewer cars mined out of the ground, stored on our streets, and returned to landfills, we need to create the insurance and regulatory means by which this kind of just-right consumption is possible.

Ditto for sharing car rides, for which it is also illegal in most countries to pay for the driver’s time and effort in addition to defraying some of his car costs. A California start-up Spride Ride has found a legislator who is trying to address some of these problems, but it is one state, and even that bill isn’t going far enough.

Legislators and policy-makers around the world: realize that some people want single-sized servings of cars and rides – or maybe even the opportunity to buy a 6-pack of individual servings – but only some of us want the 2-liter bottle. And unless you think the government or big business can provide those individual car-servings in every geography and to every desiring population, you’d do best to get rid of those barriers so that some us can serve up our excess car capacity and sell it to our neighbors.

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