My traffic turnaround – or how the traffic turnaround can succeed with a shared car by Valentin Gauß

“I don’t own a car” – this banal statement usually evokes skepticism, even incomprehension. Especially in the mobility state of Baden-Württemberg, where, among others, Carl and Berta Benz, Gottfried W. Daimler, Ferdinand Porsche, August-Wilhelm Maybach and Robert Bosch were instrumental in promoting individual motorized mobility, such a statement may come as a surprise to a lot of people. “I like to drive, but there is no need to own a car, I use a car whenever I need it”.

The following text is not intended to demonize the car per se, let alone to call for its abolition. Rather, I will try to show what alternatives there are and how a traffic turnaround can succeed. 

Car-friendly mobility has many advantages, as well as some major disadvantages

In many countries, the car is the dominant means of transport. In Germany alone there are around 48 million private cars (Kraftfahrtbundesamt 2020). All these vehicles, as well as the millions of vehicles used by cross-border commuters, tourists, or travelers, need space – a lot of space. In addition to access and exit roads, highways, federal roads, state roads and district roads, these are above all parking spaces for parked vehicles. In many rural areas there is still enough space for a second or even third car; in the cities, however, the situation is quite different. In some quarters you have to spend a lot of time looking for a free parking space; in other areas, the cars are parked so close together that it is almost impossible to cross the street. In Berlin, for example, all cars take up about 17 square kilometers, an area 214 times larger than Alexanderplatz. Moreover, there are people who commute daily from suburban or rural areas to work or go shopping in the city.

In addition to the sheer number of vehicles, their individual size has also increased in recent years. While the Golf 1 weighed around 800 kg, the current model weighs around 1.5 t. The ongoing trend towards SUVs also leads to further problems. Although the vehicles are getting bigger, wider, and heavier, on average there are only 1.4 people in a car. This has led to the absurd discussion as to whether making parking spaces wider might help remedy this problem (see ZEIT Online, July 26, 2018).

In addition to increasing competition for free space, other negative consequences of this development include traffic jams, air pollution and noise. The 1950s model of the “car-friendly city” has become a bitter reality in many places. People have been relegated to the margins.

But we are all part of the problem because cars offer many advantages over other modes of transport that we can hardly do without. Especially in suburban or rural areas, where public transport is often just a word but not a transport service, hardly anything would work without a car. Cars simply offer incredible flexibility by allowing us to travel comfortably from door to door in any weather and at any time. The car makes it possible to transport a family, goods, and merchandise with ease. Living in the country and working in the city is possible without wasting a lot of time. It allows both parents to work in different places, to pursue their hobbies and to take the children to school. At the same time, I don’t have to be considerate of anyone, I can listen to my favorite music or eat a kebab in my car and decide for myself when to leave and which route to take. This level of comfort makes the car an (almost) unbeatable means of transport.

No doubt, cars play an important role in our transportation system. But now, in addition to the advantages outlined above, more and more disadvantages are coming to light, especially in the cities. Therefore, the question arises: What can we do to change things?

any traffic experts would now presumably say that you simply have to create alternatives, and everything will change. Often at this point there is a reference to the Netherlands or the Scandinavian countries. If you want people to ride a bike, you have to build bike paths; if you want people to use the public transport system, you have to invest in the expansion of this system.

Yes, that is correct and important and should not go unmentioned.

However, this discussion often disregards the fact that the Dutch, for example, already made the decision to change their transport system in the 1970s and are restructuring their system accordingly. In Oslo, on the other hand, they plan to “ban all cars from the city center.” But neither Norway nor the Netherlands have a major automobile industry – an aspect that should not be overlooked. Many people who advocate a mobility turnaround are losing sight of the fact that it can only be done together with the automotive industry – despite, or perhaps precisely because of, the many shortcomings and scandals in recent times.

In view of the climate catastrophe, we cannot avoid transforming our transport system from an auto-centered and less sustainable system to a sustainable, social, and environmentally friendly system. However, this conversion takes time, requires persuasion, as well as a lot of financial resources.

Why not do one thing without leaving the other?

We have to rethink (auto-) mobility!

Is it really expedient and socially desirable in the long term that ever larger vehicles block more and more of the precious space in cities and make subsequent or different use virtually impossible?

“If the mountain won’t come to the prophet, the prophet must go to the mountain.”

Why not combine the benefits of the car with traveling together using public transport?

By consistently sharing trips that need to be made anyway, or taking one, two or even three people along, we could generate the same or even more mobility – with less traffic. I am convinced that, despite all the Sunday speeches, many people do not want or cannot do without the advantages of their car. So this is exactly where we should start. For this reason, I have founded Green Riding with my partners in June 2020. Why not give a ride to someone who lives in my neighborhood and has the same commute to work, why not take my neighbor’s parcels with me when I drive back from town?

Admittedly, not a new idea, unfortunately. Over time, hitchhiking and neighborhood errands have become more and more forgotten, and sharing and giving somebody a ride does not play a major role in most people’s everyday lives.

 We want to think ahead and reinterpret the system.

Green Riding combines individual mobility with active environmental protection. Our car-sharing system makes better use of free spaces in cars, the average occupancy increases and the number of cars on the streets and parking spaces can be reduced. Fewer cars means less space for the transport infrastructure. The (newly) gained space can be rededicated and given back to the people and society. Green areas, living space or new meeting places can be created.

Everyone can decide individually whether they drive themselves or take others with them; so, everyone retains their individual flexibility and freedom. This makes our system suitable for people who own a car and for people who do not have a car.

Our offer provides an environmentally friendly, affordable, social, and convenient mobility solution and actively supports local environmental protection organizations with an environmental donation for each ride, thus generating a double impact: shared rides relieve our cities, save energy and resources; at the same time, supporting local environmental protection activities makes climate protection visible in my community.

Thinking ahead and combining mobility and sustainability

The ecological challenges of our time cannot be answered in isolation. Rather, we need to take a networked and interdisciplinary approach. For this reason, we plan to combine ridesharing with other green services (e.g. green shopping, green delivery) on a common platform. With our Green Ecosystem, we are developing a social and ecological network that connects like-minded individuals and enables environmental protection to be experienced on our doorstep.

How does Green Riding, the ecological ride-sharing app, work?

Green Riding will be an app-based ridesharing system for private cars. Our flexible system allows drivers and passengers to change roles at any time: “Today I drive myself, tomorrow I will ride with you” – adapted to the (daily) changing mobility needs.

Based on the current location, a match between the drivers’ and the potential passengers’ routes is determined in real time. Our routing algorithm takes into account factors such as loss of time or possible detours and reduces these to a minimum. After all, a ridesharing system is only successful if it works reliably, quickly, and easily.

Our customers should spend as little time as possible planning a trip. That is why our system is designed in such a way that intuitive menu navigation ensures maximum ease of operation and user-friendliness. Payment is simple, secure, and cashless via our integrated payment system. By recharging a customer account, additional green services and products in our ecosystem can be paid for.

The good news is: Our individual mobility needs can still be satisfied, but we have to be ready to think about the HOW.

One way of reducing emissions and making cities more livable is to reduce the number of cars in cities.

This is exactly where Green Riding comes in!

To make my and maybe your vision come true, and to make sure that traffic will finally make its contribution to climate protection, my team and I are looking for partners, investors, and like-minded people.

The future of (auto) mobility can be green and you can be part of it.

 Edited by Gauss-Translations /Dr. Jürgen Gauß