This interview with San Francisco–based industrial designers Mike Simonian and Maaike Evers contains some fascinating ideas for re-envisioning car travel as a shareable experience. (Warning: the first half is horribly boring; stick with it.)
Simonian and Evers dare to imagine car travel 40 years in the future, when, they hope, transportation is robotically controlled and people are free to use shared vehicles for socializing. What's exciting about their design to me is that it collapses private car travel and public transportation--which suggests an entirely new way of organizing cities.
I can imagine reserving a carspace on my iphone, strolling down my block to a nearby car pod, swiping my credit card, climbing in with other passengers on their way to similar destinations, and getting to know them as an artificial intelligence quietly whisks us across the city. Since presumably private car ownership will be rare, neighbors on similar commutes will get to know each other well, which can open the door to all kinds of community building.
Their design reminds me of horse-drawn coach travel as it is sometimes depicted in old Westerns or historical dramas--which to me always looks very cosy--or perhaps the European train experience, a form of transportation during which strangers form unexpected bonds and micro-cultures arise from surprising fusions.