Neil Tambe

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

Future of Auto #1 - The Shareable Car

I want to intern in Detroit this summer and I'm extremely interested in things like Consumer Insights, New Product Development, Future Trends Analysis, and Strategic Planning. Basically, I like building and launching new things. Seeing as how working in Auto is the likeliest of these routes (though not exclusively), I figured I'd see if I could actually come up with visionary ideas about the automotive industry.

This post is the first installment in a series I hope to keep with over the next few months. In it I will try to empathize with different customer segments and think of new products or services that would serve them in fresh ways. If you think my ideas are legit, I'd appreciate your help in finding a sweet gig for the summer. If you think my ideas are far from legit, I'd appreciate your feedback.

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Speaking as a Millennial, It's not that I don't like cars. I actually really like cars. I grew up around cars. When I played with Legos as a kid, I used to make them into cars (full disclosure: and spaceships that doubled as cars). I think the technological innovations in cars are astounding and that the invention that's currently happening with in-car tech is fascinating.

The thing is, I wish I had a lifestyle that didn't require a car. See, I want to live in a city and walk places. But I still want to be able to use a car. And, I still want to own a car. I want some of the private benefits of having a car while still sharing the fixed costs of having a car with other people.

So, why not have some of the benefits of both with a shareable car? What if people who aren't necessarily family or members of the same household could own a car together, too? Maybe the beginnings of an idea could work like this:

OEMs would create leasing schemes in which the leasees can be of any association to each other. Maybe they're neighbors. Maybe they're friends. Maybe they're roommates. Maybe they just met and live down the street from each other. Under the agreement they would each pay for insurance and maintenance through the OEM and sign their lease together. They'd both have access to the car. And, it wouldn't be a generic car like Zipcars. It'd be one they picked all together.

A supporting technology for this idea would be a mobile app which helps the co-leasees share the car. The app would track mileage and usage so that the friends could split gas and maintenance (i.e. variable costs) quickly and automatically. This app could also be used by the friends to reserve use of the car at the times they need it, or maybe coordinate how they can carpool. Finally, the app could contain a unique identifying mechanism which allows the car to adjust itself to the driver's preferences, whether it's music, recently navigated destinations, temperature, or seating arrangements.

Of course, there are problems with this idea (e.g., who would want partial ownership of a car with a friend, especially if that person doesn't live within parking distance of your residence). I don't attempt to resolve all the problems here. I merely intend to lay out the beginnings of what could be a good discussion about the future of the auto industry and a potential product or service offering.