The problem with your example of only needing a car that drives in snow for twenty days a year is…
Sarah Jo Peterson
2

Spot on. The type of car needed on different locations and at different times depending on weather conditions, holidays, etc., makes getting rid of car ownership a harder problem to solve.

Let’s imagine for a moment that car ownership drops to nothing and we have our Driverless Uber – «Duber». Duber competes with other public transportation such as Metro/Subway, Bus and Taxi services. When a customer calls for a Duber, the algorithm evaluates what are the closest available cars that fit the customers request.

Scenario 1 —Today is Thanksgiving so Duber is swamped with calls! Waiting times are close to one hour. Surge pricing kicks in and John either pays up or faces the alternatives. John lives in Suburbia so there’s no subway around and it’s raining cats and dogs so John plus wife and 2 kids don’t want to walk 15 minutes to the closest bus stop… He can call for a regular taxi but waiting times are similar.

Scenario 2 — It’s been snowing for 2 days. John lives close to the city in a mountainous area. Only a fraction of Duber’s cars can pick up John. When John calls for his Duber to go to work the algorithm evaluates the weather and road conditions and selects an appropriate vehicle — that will take 1 hour to pick up John because these vehicles are on high demand today…

Assuming that the algorithm is ideal and resources finite, Duber will have a fleet of compact cars, all terrain cars, etc to fit each scenario. It will not be possible to have only compact cars and it will not be profitable (as it competes with regular cabs, buses and subway) to have only all terrain “energy wasters”. The market (how long John is willing to pay and to wait for his ride) will dictate what combination is right for each location. In the end we are bound to have periods where the waiting time is higher. Duber can charge more to have customers skip to the front of the waiting line and this will depend on how each market deals with this. Capitalist Duber will keep the fleet at maximum occupancy during regular day’s and charge for your soul on “high demand” days. Socialist Duber will have a lower occupancy on off peak day’s and ensure you don’t pay too much or wait too long in days of high demand.

In the end, quality and reliability of service will be determined by the market and competitors. As long as we have a healthy competitive market, service should eventually be adequate at all times, whether through surge pricing, longer waiting times at peak demand, or a combination of the two.