Sharing Isn't Caring In Transport: We Use The Word Two Ways, And Don't Understand Either

Sharing Isn't Caring In Transport: We Use The Word Two Ways, And Don't Understand Either

One of the more confusing words frequently associated with robocars (and all discussion of the future of transportation) is "shared." Unfortunately, this means two very different things, with quite different consequences.

Key findings

Sometimes "shared" refers to serial sharing, namely that one vehicle goes out and serves many customers, rather than being a privately owned vehicle. There was a perfectly good word for that in the past—taxi—but companies like Lyft and Uber, when they first started offering such services, had legal reasons to try to pretend not to be taxis, so they called it "ride share," pretending that somehow the driver of the car was just sharing a ride with the customer.

The more interesting type of sharing—we would call it "ride share" if that term had not been repurposed—might better be called ride pooling.

In the taxi world, cars all wear out by the mile, not the year. In the private ownership world they wear out by both miles and years, an, in fact, are designed to wear out evenly between the two. Once cars wear out by the mile, it doesn't matter at all how many people share them.

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