Cars, absolute nonsense.

I was supposed to write an intro but you don’t need more context than the title itself.

The worst expense ever

I never understood my friends buying a 15 000 € new car at age 20. Do you realise this is a lot of money for a piece of metal using a stupid engine? What get me crazy is worst: these same people prefer to live in their parent’s home and having a fancy car rather than experiencing freedom in their own place. It’s a widely spread pattern. I saw this many times in Spain, Italy, and France.

Let’s buy a 15 000 € car. You have to pay the insurance (1 000€/year). Let’s say you’re using it for 40km/day, 5 days a week (800km/month). As of today in France, you will spend 1.4€/litre of diesel so 800km/month are about 48L of diesel (assuming 6L/100km). It’s 68€/month of diesel. Let’s add some parking fines (100€/year) and reparations (500€/year). To close the loop, you can be lucky and resell this car for 6 000€ after 5 years.

That means in the first five years, the overall cost of your car is 15000+1000x5+68x12x5+100x5+500x5-6000 = 21 000€.

Now let’s go with Uber in Paris: it’s about 200€/week (9 600€/year). In five years: 48 000€.

We still have a 27 000€ gap in five years. But let’s count time versus dollars spent.

I can easily bet you’re spending 2h/day (40h/month) driving or trying to park. I can guaranty that in five years I’ve created a lot of value with 480h/year working or reading instead of driving. People doing the choice of buying a brand new car underestimate the value of time. It’s usually called the poor mentality. They do this to boost their ego, feel more powerful, and patch insecurities. I don’t see any rational reasons to pay for something that makes me waste my money, time, and energy. It’s completely irrational.

Now imagine a 30 000€ new car and driving even more kilometres per week. The 27 000€ gap will drop down to 8 000€. But for 8 000€ more each five years, I’ll seat down in a very comfortable car too, with a private driver, and zero time wasted in driving or parking, with 2400h more available (480h x 5 years).

You think you can’t buy time? Yes you can. 27000€ for 2400 hours: 11,25€/h. It’s so cheap. I wish I could buy more hours for this price.

Buying a car is an expense with no possible positive returns.
Using a private driver is an investment in your time and can generate only positive returns.

Think twice when buying your next car unless it’s 100% self-driven.

Removing personal cars

I think in 50 years from now, we will look back at history and mention the 1900 century as a disaster in term of transport. We took all the wrong directions. Cars are killing 1.3 million people each year and an additional 20–50 million are injured or disabled (sources: here, here). 50 millions injured. A whole country. How can humans be smart enough to control a 1000kg car going at 100km/h without doing any mistake? We just can’t.

Can you imagine removing all the personal cars on the roads and replace them by electric bus and vans? All the parking space we can unleash? All the bicycles we can put back on the road? All the pollution we can reduce? All the accidents and drama we can avoid?

If you love cars and driving fast: just rent a powerful one and have fun on a track not in the street. But from experience, that concerns maybe 5% of the driving population. The other 95% just don’t give a shit.

Electric self-driven vans

I think the most optimal form of transport is electric vans. A 8 seats van like Mercedes-Benz Passenger or Volkswagen Transporter.

They combine a lot of advantages: the overall size of these models is just slightly bigger than a regular car (talking about surface on the ground, think about parking and current size of the roads). They can cary on up to 8 people with a very decent comfort. They are small enough to ride into the narrow streets of our European cities that means they can be deployed everywhere. In addition, they have a spacious trunk and the interior can be modular (turning seats 180°, having more trunk by moving seats, etc). One van can replace up to 4 cars without changing one centimetre of the current road infrastructure.

They also have space below the floor to store large batteries. Making vans full electric will also have an obvious positive impact. As of today, we know it’s hard to store electric energy efficiently. But if these vans are moving all day in a certain range (less than 100km) I think it’s reasonable to have electric charging stations dispatched across a country to have a full charge on demand. Tesla is already doing it.

The next optimal step is to make them 100% autonomous. And boom, you have the hardware to build an amazing transport infrastructure.

Electric self-driven vans on demand everywhere at any time for everyone.

MaaS (Mobility As A Service).

I wish a future like this: Companies in charge of managing the hardware infrastructure. In this case, managing the vans (changing wheels, oil, fixing the engine, etc). And on the other side companies taking care of the service by renting the hardware and managing the pickup/navigation/payment for the final users.

Basically, I vision a kind of “Uber for everyone”. I take Uber as an example but it doesn’t have to be them. Uber for kids, Uber for students, Uber for workers, Uber for grand parents, etc. You can have a wide variety of ambiance you want in your next trip and one van will pick you up with people who choose the same style. You will also have a range of price depending on the service you want inside the van.

The navigation and waiting time will be optimised: Uber Pool for everyone. You can optimise the route for every user and pick them where they want.

This can also change the shape of our cities and living spaces. With MaaS, you know you can have a van near you in less than five minutes to go anywhere. That will allow people to live far from the city center and be able to have a better life style. What about living in the country side? This hour of transport will not be the same as taking the subway in Paris on Tuesday at 8am trust me. It will be a productive or relaxing hour.

Many obstacles

This dreamy vision of transport is not too far from us. But most of our societies are not ready to drop their sens of freedom they feel in a car. The American Dream (which I don’t buy at all). Thinking that you’re driving your future by driving a car. That’s actually hilarious to me:

People work to buy a new car and then use this car to go back to work.

Fantastic stupid circle. It will take so much time to push the idea of not owning this piece of metal.

Then we have to support the electric infrastructure to power these cars. That’s still an issue and most countries are not ready to be fully autonomous on green electricity generation.

Uber is working hard on having autonomous cars as well as Tesla. They just need more time to have a better technology but it’s getting better every month. In an ideal world with only self-driven cars, accidents are close to be impossible since all cars could coordinate themselves on the road and not be surprised by human mistakes.

But still possible

And what about the remote areas? “I still need my car because I have no Uber like service or public transport near me.”. I know and that sucks. That’s very difficult to live without a car in some places. But I’m still dreaming about a world where people have more time for themselves and less pressure on transport.

Please Tesla, or Uber, or anyone working in these industry: Make it happen. Destroy the car industry and provide the best and affordable service ever.