The transportation trifecta: How car sharing and EVs can save the world
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The technology cornucopia is about to deliver into the lap of lucky America three different breakthroughs that, combined, could revolutionize American transportation and produce sure victory in the battle against climate change. The next Congress should grant the tax breaks that will catalyze the potential of this magic combination into real benefits for Americans. 
 
The automobile industry accounts for about one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The 250 million gas-powered vehicles on streets and in driveways, garages and parking lots present a big problem in reducing emissions. But three technological breakthroughs—conceived separately with different motives—could solve the automobile emissions problem. 
 
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The first technology is the semi-autonomous or autonomous car. Google has already logged two million miles of self-driving vehicle trials and partially self-driving cars are already in production. And as communications infrastructure and data analytics are improving at an accelerating rate, the reality of really easy driving is, well, just around the corner. These safe and comfortable cars are going to sell like hotcakes.
 
The second technology is the electric vehicle. Spacious, zippy, low maintenance, and cheap or free to refuel, electric vehicles in the next two years will compete at very affordable prices. Already, major American car companies are manufacturing electric cars for middle class consumers. 
 
The third breakthrough is the use of mobile apps and data analytics to make ridesharing easy, affordable, and popular. Uber, Lyft, and taxis are taking advantage of data gathering and artificial intelligence are poised to reduce America’s staggering total of 3.2 trillion driven miles.
 
So imagine a future where Americans get from place to place using accessible and shared semi-autonomous or autonomous electric cars. 
 
Suppose this trifecta leads to 25 million such shared, self-driving cars that get six times the amount of usage of the average American gas-powered car. New York taxis, for example, are driven 70,000 miles a year. Compared to the 12,000 miles that the average American vehicle drives each year, a shared vehicle is used closer to its maximum capacity. Then we can think of these 25 million electric, shared, robotic cars as substituting for six times as many gas-powered cars. That’s 150 million cars off the road—60 percent of the current gas-powered fleet. The remaining 40 percent will still ride on gas. But the emissions out of the tailpipes of American cars would drop 60 percent. 
 
These trends have the potential to transform the transportation sector from an intractable obstacle to a central victory in the battle against climate change. The key to success is to figure out how Congress in 2017 can begin to stimulate the purchase and wide use of shared and semi-autonomous electric vehicles. 
 
The technology industry is ready to provide the vehicles and the business models. They are already in front of our eyes and on our smartphones. Congress should help this emerging market by offering big tax credits to the firms that sell the trifecta cars: electric, shared, and semi-robotic. The credits should go up as the shared miles increase. 
 
Right now, Americans are buying about 17 million new cars and light trucks per year. If generous tax credits caused less than a third of these purchases to go toward the trifecta vehicles – five million a year – then in just five years a fleet of 25 million shared electric cars would be swallowing up America’s gas-powered mileage. That’s called a new world.
 
In the next Congress, with a new President, it’s time for new ideas. Elected leaders need only put one and one and one together: shared plus electric plus semi-autonomous. Then these cool cars can help stop the earth from heating. 
 
Reed Hundt is CEO of Coalition for Green Capital and former chairman of the FCC.

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.