I had to run a couple of errands on my way downtown recently, so I walked a couple of blocks from my house and grabbed a Car2go. As I entered downtown and started hunting for a legal parking spot to ditch the car, it occurred to me how Car2go and paid parking are, as they say, two great tastes that go great together.
Paid parking, in an ideal Shoup-ian world, is priced so that some percentage of on-street spaces is always free. This, in turn, makes Car2go an attractive option since you know you won’t have to burn minutes circling for parking when you get to your destination. Car2go would likely not be possible in a world of unrestricted “free” parking.
This makes Car2go a great example of what Steven Johnson calls “adjacent possible” innovation – an evolutionary change that reconfigures the existing system to create something new. The service relies on very little in the way of systemic change, save for the magical parking permit arrangement between the company and the city. Car2go simply takes existing facts on the ground – smartphones, RFID chips, Smart cars, paid parking – and recombines them into something new and useful.
While Car2go has gotten off to a great start in Seattle, it’s clearly just version 1.0 of what could be a more seismic shift in transportation. Dave Roberts had a great piece in Grist recently about “widgets versus systems” and how driverless cars could be truly transformative on a city or regional level. Changes at that scale, however will have to go beyond adjacent-possible-type innovation and towards a more fundamental reworking of our infrastructure. As Charles Mudede wrote recently in Slog, only government is capable of such systemic change.