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It’s 2030 and my little man, Giles*, is now a big man. He’s a month away from his 18th birthday. He’s studied extremely hard and he’s got a shot at Stanford next year (finger’s crossed).
I’m continually amazed at all the things he’s been able to fit in his head. However, this is about the one thing that isn’t in there.
Giles doesn’t know how to drive a car. Neither do any of his friends.
Since the government passed the new Manual Driver Requirements in 2028, none of them have even taken a driver’s test. Why would they?
I couldn’t be happier about how things have developed in the last 15 years. When I started this blog nearly 25 years ago in 2006, I had planned to spend thousands on transportation in retirement. Who would have thought that transportation has become a small income stream for me?
Did I lose You? Let me take a step back.
In late 2015, I realized that several technologies were converging to change the world.
My solar panels hadn’t celebrated their first birthday, but they already had me thinking: “If only there were reasonably-priced electric SUVs, I could eliminate most of my gas bill. (I’d need something for longer trips.)”
Several months before that, Uber came my town. I’ve only used it a couple of times, but the idea of on-demand transportation is changing the way millions of people travel.
And the year before that, I was on “the 101” in Silicon Valley and next to me was a Google car without a driver.
A funny thing happens when you put autonomous cars, on-demand transportation, and “free”** solar power together. The cost of car transportation becomes very small.
Currently, the average American family spends 19% of their money on transportation. (I’ll make the assumption that the number is typical, or more, for car owners and those who commute via public transit save money.) However, the average car is in use only 4% of the time according to Morgan Stanley.
So, roughly, 1/5 of the money goes to something that is used 1/25th of the time. That’s terribly inefficient.
In a world of autonomous, on-demand cars, people pay for what they use. I choose to save money by riding at off-peak hours to run errands.
What about the cost of human drivers? In 2016, Uber had to pay hundreds of thousands of drivers. Autonomous cars is a huge, huge cost savings for them.
I don’t mind one bit, because autonomous cars are great for riders like me as well. We can use our commuting time productively. The average commute to work appears to be about 24.5 minutes. We’ll estimate that to be 50 minutes a day (round-trip). It appears that the average hourly wage is $20.43, meaning that the 50 minutes saves people around $17 a day on just their work commute. (This makes the dangerous and possibly false assumption that people would be as productive while in the car. If they aren’t being productive, I humbly suggest that they have a higher quality of life.)
In the spirit of the late, great, Steve Jobs, there’s One More Thing.
The autonomous cars drive much more efficiently. They merge perfectly because computer sensors direct everything. The same sensors help ensure that there are extremely few accidents. Commuting times are reduced which is allows people to have more time to do the things they want to do.
What about solar? How do I make money from Uber’s gPods?
A few years ago, the last of the gas-powered auto companies announced they’d be switching to electric, just like everyone else. At the time of the announcement, I couldn’t help but think of the last companies to make typewriters and VCRs.
Our family has always tried to be a little ahead of the curve. In 2015, We were the first house in the neighborhood to get solar power. So when Alphabet’s Uber subsidiary announced their latest innovation a couple of years ago, we were quick to sign up.
We make a little money each day renting out a parking space in our driveway (and electricity) to Uber. Uber realized early on that by distributing cars throughout a neighborhood, people would always have fast access to a car. Location, location, location. It was much more efficient than having them in a central parking area. By tapping into the solar power that’s already in most people’s homes, Uber eliminated the need to “refuel” cars.
I imagine that Uber swaps out cars for maintenance, but it’s hard for me to be sure. The cars look mostly the same. The come in any color you want as long as it is black. All I know is that we have size 1, 2, or 3 in our driveway at any given time.
Back in 2016, I was estimating that we’d pay more than $800 a month for our two cars in retirement. That’s around $10,000 a year. This system is much, much cheaper. In fact, our car expenses are essentially zero when you factor in Uber’s payment to us for the parking space.
We finished paying off our 15 year mortgage 3 years ago in 2027. With our electricity and transportation costs zero we are left few other expenses. I haven’t figured out how to eliminate the cost of health care, food, taxes, insurance, and other utilities. For most people health care is one of their biggest expenses. We’re very fortunate to have my wife’s military coverage. Though it is much more expensive than in was in 2016, it’s still a great deal compared to the other options out there.
Thank heavens that we’ve been able to reduce and/or eliminate all these expenses. This year Stanford is $150,000 a year. Giles’ younger brother, Xander, is looking into MIT. That’s not any cheaper.
Is it silly to reflect about saving $10,000 a year on transportation when you are spending $300,000 a year between two colleges?
* In traditional Lazy Man fashion, I have substituted real names with a character from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
** Solar power isn’t free, but the panels are very cheap and efficient in 2030. There’s no incremental cost to power cars like there is with gasoline.