This website is dedicated to making the case that the single occupant Cabin Commuter will be the dominant automotive architecture in The Mobility Cloud that will be created from the marriage of on-demand alternate taxi services and autonomous technology. That being said, it’s worth considering the case for building a conventional, human controlled Cabin Commuter right now.
Chrysler invented the minivan in 1983 with the Dodge Caravan and its Plymouth and Chrysler corporate clones. Mercedes invented the four door coupe in 2004 with the CLS. Jeep arguably invented the modern SUV in 1963 with the Wagoneer. The Cabin Commuter is another example of a new automotive segment that no one is building right now and someone has an opportunity to get there first. The difference is that the eventual market for Cabin Commuters is going to be bigger than all other automotive segments combined. This is why any major automobile company (in particular Tesla), tech companies like Google or Apple, alternative taxi companies like Uber, Lyft and their competitors, or any other entity interested in getting into (or staying in) the automobile market should be developing a conventional, freeway capable, human controlled Cabin Commuter right now.
There is tremendous value in being first to market, but right now as I write this in 2015 autonomous technology isn’t mature enough to productionize and the legality of autonomous vehicles on public roads hasn’t yet been fully resolved. The solution to this conundrum is to develop and sell a human controlled Cabin Commuter so that the mechanical platform, infrastructure to manufacture and consumer acceptance of this unusual form factor are all ready to go when autonomous technology and on-demand alternate taxi services combine to make the demand for these vehicles explode.
I believe there’s a modest market right now for private consumer sales of a human controlled version of these small enclosed Cabin Commuters.
But as long as consumers have to personally purchase or lease them these vehicles are never going to explode from a sales standpoint because they only do 75% of what consumers do with their cars rather than the 99% utility that consumers currently demand. Regardless, any entity that wants to get ahead of this coming economic tidal wave should be developing this platform right now. Lit Motors is trying to be the first company to offer a reasonably priced, freeway capable Cabin Commuter. (I say, “freeway capable” because Toyota has already developed a less capable version of a Cabin Commuter with their iRoad, which gets a lot of things right, but is underbuilt) Lit Motors is developing a pure electric Cabin Commuter, which is without question the highest priority. For the short term market, though, (which will consist of making private sales to individuals) it’s worth considering building a combustion powered version of this platform as well because that’s the mainstream consumer choice right now. Once both an electric and combustion version of this platform have been engineered, then it’s not much extra work to blend the two designs and build a hybrid version as well. Also, for a human controlled Cabin Commuter that is intended to be sold to private individuals rather than as a fleet vehicle, it likely makes sense to build it in a 1+1 passenger configuration rather than a true single occupant vehicle as I advocate everywhere else in this website. I say this because having a second seat behind the driver, even if it’s a relatively small one, means it’s easy to pick a child up from school, or take an adult briefly across town, or, more often, when there isn’t a person sitting in the rear seat, that’s enough room for a carry-on sized bag and a personal bag or a half dozen bags of groceries. Having just that extra bit of utility I think will be of great value for a human controlled vehicle that has to be sold in the current automobile market prior to the advent of The Mobility Cloud.
The technical case for a hybrid with this sort of vehicle would be very strong. Hybridization would result in a vehicle that likely achieves well over a hundred miles to the gallon with none of the range limitations of an electric vehicle. The business case for the hybrid would likely be more challenging. Any consumer purchasing this vehicle would be in possession of a machine that could do the following.
Any entity interested in being competitive in the automotive industry in ten or twenty years should be developing a Cabin Commuter platform right now, not for the purpose of making a couple of bucks selling a niche commuting vehicle, but rather they should do it because it gives that company the platform that will become the dominant vehicle architecture in the urbanized world in the next twenty years.