We share all the time – just not with each other.
By Peter Sorgenfrei, CEO at Autonomous Mobility
Over the last couple of years, a mania of sharing everything has taken hold. We Instagram our breakfast, our bike rides, what happens at work as well as when we go out at night. But at the same time, we’re not really sharing anything with each other. We’re still stuck behind our screens sending impressions, or rather expressions, out into cyberspace, hoping that someone will see it and respond. And it’s a shame.
Because in reality, most of us lead daily lives that are roughly divided in to three: 12 hours at home, 8 hours at work and 4 hours of ‘in between’ when we transport ourselves from one place to the next. Much of this transportation time (providing you’re neither bicycling nor driving yourself) is spent behind a screen. E-mails, news, social media, random cat videos and so on. But though it’s practical to be able to use the time in between home and work to prepare or be entertained. to me, it’s also so clear that transport has the potential to be something truly positive and enriching in our lives.
Although we have lots of opportunities to do so, we very rarely strike a conversation with a stranger. Maybe it’s a cultural thing: us people of the North don’t seem to possess the same innate tendency to socialize as is the norm in a lot of other cultures. Most of us – including myself – tend to need a ‘good reason’ to initiate a conversation with a complete stranger. And so, our mobile phones become all the more convenient by providing us with an easy shield from the outside world.
But after all, humans are social creatures. And I’ve rarely – actually I’ve never heard of anyone who regretted having a conversation with another human being. All conversations are learning experiences and you’re bound to learn something about your conversation partner or yourself.
It is my belief that we’re all carrying around an urge to speak more to one another. We already know that transport time presents an opportunity to do so – so now we just need to figure out where to start. Autonomous Mobility is already working on ways to make that happen.
We import and operate self-driving vehicles. Fully electric and shared vehicles. To optimize where and how they should operate, we’re currently building a ‘mobility cloud’, which allows passengers to book a vehicle and manage the routes.
The purpose of this technology is first and foremost to take you where you need to go, at the time you need to be there. And for the vehicle to fit your needs, as well as that of any other passenger, so that capacity is always optimized.
But the technology can also have a social purpose for anyone who wants it to. For example, you can register on your profile that you’re interested in drone technology and happen to know a lot about this topic. At the same time you’ll be able to register your interest in sharing a ride with someone who’s been to Japan because you’re going there next summer. On one trip you may share what you know with others, on the next you may find out something new from someone else. We see endless opportunities to form little communities around shared interests as part of the daily commute.
A lot of our vehicles also encourage social interaction through their design alone. Much more than the cars, buses, airplanes and trains we use today do. Instead of sitting in separate rows, the seats form a U-shape. This is the ideal stage for casual conversations because there are literally no physical barriers.
Now you’re probably thinking “Hmm, I quite enjoy having my own space with no interaction when I’m on the train”. But before you jump to conclusions, you should know that we’re talking about an opportunity to have enriching conversations here – not some mandatory duty. Naturally, you’re free to keep staring into your phone while riding the bus. Maybe the people around you will exchange more words than usual – and then my hope is you’ll eventually pull out your ear plugs and get involved.