Nowadays, ride sharing apps help drivers and passengers straddle the line between public and private transportation. However, you don’t just have to rely on Uber of Lyft if you want to make the most of car sharing. The practice of carpooling has been around for decades. Now the practice has adopted a reputation for being both green and economical.
Are ride sharing and carpooling all they’re cracked up to be, though? Or, with evolutions in technology and human behaviour, have these resources encouraged new dangers to arise? While the answer to that question mostly depends on your opinions on road safety and other people's driving styles, there are still some objective pros and cons to car sharing that are worth noting.
The rise of car sharing
While carpool has never been an exceptionally popular practice in the United Kingdom, the United States has been using it since the early 1910s. With the onset of World War 1 and the boom of the automotive industry, propaganda posters encouraging the conservation of resources informed US citizens that if they had room in their cars, they had a civic responsibility to fill that space with extra passengers.
Anymore, the need to carpool is a little less severe. Services like Uber and Lyft, which both cater to billions of passengers every year, are more frequently used by people wanting to make it home from bars when they can no longer safely drive to work in the mornings or if they can’t afford a car.
These forms of transportation have beaten out the United States’ struggling public transportation system in popularity. It’s no wonder though - they are making headway in other countries around the world, including England.
The benefits of car sharing
This rise in car sharing can be attributed to a number of individual needs. That individuality, in fact, is one of the primary benefits of car sharing.
Better time management
People looking to get to work on time every morning won’t have to wait through numerous bus stops and finicky traffic if they car share with their fellow employees. While buses, tubes, or other modes of public transportation rely on patterns and the movement of large groups of people, ride sharing is highly individual. A person can set up a carpooling system with their co-workers or take an individual Uber or Lyft into work, circumventing the need to sit through bus stops and thereby allowing themselves to better stay in control of their schedule.
Car sharing also promotes an element of passenger safety. When the buses in a city stop running, for example, it’s much safer to call a friend of a ride sharing service than it is to walk back to your home or rely on the kindness of strangers.
Likewise, if you’re out on a Friday and drink too much, it is infinitely safer for you to seek out a safe ride share than it is for you to attempt to drive home. This doesn’t mean that ride sharing offers a perfect solution to, say, your bad behaviour while drunk, but it will ensure that you don’t get hurt after a night in the town.
A more personal morning commute
Ride sharing also allows you to have a more personalised transportation experience. Lyft and Uber are both known for their drivers who have customised passenger playlists, candy available in their cars and otherwise exceptional customer service.
While your friends may not be so generous with the items in their car, you’ll still have the opportunity, if carpooling, to have more individualised conversations and to at least have a bit of say in what kind of music is playing in the car while you commute.
Carpooling as a practice is also somewhat more environmentally friendly than your individual drive to work. While Lyft and Uber’s environmental impact is still iffy, one car delivering four people to work will still produce fewer greenhouse gases than if those four people drove to work individually.
Furthermore, because car poolers and ride shares don’t have to operate on pre-determined paths, like public transportation vehicles do, they can take more efficient routes to get where they’re going, saving petrol along the way.
The risks of car sharing
That isn’t to say that ride sharing is perfect though. Even some of those better elements listed have their negatives.
Override of public transportation
Take, for example, the impact car sharing has had on public transportation. Countries with weaker public transportation systems are now able to further neglect those systems thanks to car sharing, meaning that citizens without access to cars, friends with cars, or phones to download apps on are out of luck when it comes to getting to work on time.
This permitted negligence is more than disappointing. It suggests a reliance on a form of transportation that is, at this moment, still on the rise, but which requires a certain monetary status.
Situational safety risk
For women, too – especially women alone – Lyft, Uber, and other ride sharing services present a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s usually safer to catch a ride with someone than it is to walk from one destination to another, especially at night time.
However, although both major ride sharing services claim to vet their drivers, getting in the car with strange men is never a particularly good idea if you’re a woman. The AI that Uber wants to install in their drivers’ cars is said to potentially increase the likelihood that women passengers will be sexually assaulted.
While car sharing may have its many benefits, it is far from a perfect system. It seems like the services we have available to us today, as well as the opportunity to carpool with our friends, will have to evolve before we can definitively say whether or not car sharing is the transportation mode of the future.