Companies have been making little two seat gadget concept cars, similar to the GM concept I used for my picture, for decades now. Yet even with the fuel prices doubling the last few years they still haven’t gone mainstream. Every day you see people commuting to work, alone, in their giant SUVs, full sized pickups, and mini-vans. Why? Surely the macho factor plays into it, but I believe most people buy those because from time to time they actually need the extra capabilities provided by them. The problem is they are then saddled with the increased fuel consumption whenever they drive.
What if instead we could all use small, fuel-efficient cars for everyday use, and then have additional vehicles follow us around only when needed. The military has been working on leader/follower technology for supply convoys for years; this is essentially a commercial extension of this. Since this is a step below autonomous vehicles it doesn’t require the complicated perception and navigation systems needed for autonomy. With short-range secure wireless communications, and a protocol standardized across manufacturers, various vehicles, with different capabilities, could be joined together in a small convoy that follows you around.
For starters, why have a vehicle that sits six or eight when you usually only need two or four. You could have additional units as needed to sit more, with the ability to video chat between them. When you have another kid, why buy a bigger vehicle when you could just buy another two person one? When your kid reaches sixteen and starts driving, you won’t need to buy them a car of their own, you’ll already have one for them. And if you want to car pool with the neighbor’s kids, you just add the neighbor’s vehicle to your convoy. As an additional benefit those kids will no longer be making a mess in your car.
Then think of all the cargo options available. In addition to basic flat truck beds, or covered cargo vans, you could have refrigerated units. Once you have a fridge why not add a grill for tailgating or camping? How about bringing your own bathroom along? Think of everything put on trailers: boats, jet skis, four wheelers, the trailer can drive itself. Your car no longer needs to have any towing capacity. Each trailer has enough horsepower and braking as required on its own.
For longer trips, what if you could bring along a long-range power module? Maybe this is a generator with a big fuel tank, maybe a fuel cell, or maybe just some batteries. Admittedly with current technology this would probably require wires running between the vehicles, but it’s an option.
And if you really don’t think these cars are macho enough, why not add the technology to sporty, two seat roadsters? Or for that matter a motorcycle. Imagine heading out on your Harley with your speedboat following you (or your grandkids).