Monday, April 30, 2012

Modern Day Hitchhiking

In the golden years, you often saw idealized accounts of people hitchhiking across the United States.  Or hopping on trains and riding the rails.  Those idyllic scenes have been changed over the years.  Stories of hitchhikers attacking kind motorists or motorists picking up hitchhikers for nefarious purposes percolated through our culture and now I know of very few people who would be on either side (hitcher or motorist) for their own safety.  

Our current energy crisis could be alleviated a little by hitchhiking.  I see many cars with only the driver, which is a huge waste of space.  And many places people want to go are destinations for thousands of others, making it more likely that both hitchhikers and motorists would want to go there.  If we could double the average occupancy of each car, we could save millions of driving hours a year!

It would require some very important changes.   
  • An electronic thumb of some sort (like in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), rather than using your regular thumb.  
  • The ability for hitchhikers and motorists to rate one another, similar to couch-surfing.  
  • The tipping point where both motorists and hitchhikers have a large enough pool on the other side to use the app.  
  • Cultural adaption to having strangers in your car. 
Hitchhiking, or a sanitized version of it, can make a comeback if the right minds get behind it.  In the future, community will be ever more important.  Sharing (or selling?) resources like your driving time would be a great way to spread the wealth.  


  1. Have you listened to the Freakonomics podcast about this?

    I agree with you that car ownership will probably decrease in the coming years, and Couchsurfing-type services will become more popular, but I also think that Zip Car, or other similar car rental services will gain traction, especially as robotic cars enter the market.

    1. I'll look into it. And thanks for reminding me that I need to read the Freakonomics book. :)

      Ah, yes, the robotic cars. Those didn't occur to me here, but you're totally right. Services like short-term car rentals and robotic transportation will have a huge impact - more so in urban areas.

      When do you think Google is going to manufacture the self-driving car for commercial use?

      Thanks for the comment, Eric.