Ben Thompson: Networked Robot Cars vs. Networked Carpooling

The Stratechery post linked above is a very interesting additional twist to the discussion I bulletpointed on robot cars in my post “The Economist on the End of Cars as We Know Them” three days ago.

One other idea that is missing from “The Economist on the End of Cars as We Know Them” is the idea that to the extent people don’t own cars, but use a different car for each trip, it becomes much easier to electric cars. For certain trips, the short range of electric cars is a big problem, but for many trips, it is fine. And a robot-driven car can look for moments in its many peregrinations when it is close to a fast-charging station. (If a robot-driven electric car is in use a really high fraction of the time, then it will be hard to find a time to charge it that doesn’t have a serious opportunity cost. So there will be a premium on fast charging. But the fast-charging stations can be fairly widely spaced apart since the robot-driven car covers a lot of ground. This means that high-fixed-cost fast-charging stations will make sense.