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Choosing a Driving Plan

2035, United States

The ‘driverless’ car revolutionised every aspect of transportation — particularly the business model. This brochure demonstrates how people struggled to come to grips with the new world:

Life used to be simple. If you wanted to travel, all you had to do was buy a car and put gas in it every so often. Sure, keeping a car was expensive, and it bled value every minute you weren't using it, and you had to pay for parking and repairs and insurance, and you wasted thousands of hours of your life in the mindless drudgery of driving, but at least you knew you had absolutely no choice in the matter.

Well, it's 2035 now, and while we're blessedly free from the monotony and expense of driving, we're also faced with a bewildering range of options for getting from A to B. The plummeting cost of cars (we can surely drop the term 'driverless' by now), along with their tight network integration, has seen a thousand flowers bloom in the burgeoning 'cars as a service' sector.

With so many choices available it’s easy to get confused, but don't worry: we're here to help you find your perfect car plan!

(Before we begin, those Pay As You Go plans that seem so cheap with their free miles and entertainment? Unless you're a penniless hermit who only makes ten trips a year, or you hate the idea of being able to travel wherever you want, whenever you want, forget it.)

Now we've gotten that out of the way, here a few general tips on finding a good plan.

First off, don't go for flat-rate pricing for 'car minutes' or 'car miles'. They might be easier to understand, but you get a lot less bang for your buck because you can't take advantage of demand-based pricing. You'll get ripped off if you use a car during low demand times — around 11am, say — and during rush hour you'll be left waiting because everyone else on your plan is trying to use cars at the same time. In theory, flat-rate car plans can be cheaper, but in practice they just don’t work out in the long term.

So that leaves demand-based pricing, with Challenger and CarSnap being the two leading competitors.

Challenger has Points and CarSnap has Beats, but they both amount to the same thing: travel currency that changes in price depending on how busy the network and traffic is. Basically, this kind of demand-based pricing means the same journey might cost different amounts depending on the time of day or whether there's a special occasion on (such as a holiday or sports event) that's causing a lot of traffic.

In most cities, demand-based pricing is set and regulated by local governments rather than companies themselves, so you don't have to worry about getting fleeced too much. If you thought congestion charging was complicated, these pricing schemes can take some getting used to. But after a couple of weeks it'll seem normal, and you'll figure out what kind of travel patterns work for you in terms of time and money.

A common mistake that new users make is overestimating how many Points/Beats they'll need and signing up for an expensive contract they can't get out of. Don't do that! Journeys tend to be an awful lot faster when you don't have to find parking, and you can always buy extra Points if you need them. One thing that's definitely worth paying for, though, is a ‘Family and Friends’ bolt-on. This lets you add extra users onto your car plan for a small amount; plus Challenger offers up to a 50 percent discount if you all travel in the same vehicle (saving them money, of course).

Speaking of which, both Challenger and CarSnap also offer carpooling bonuses that let users save points by sharing journeys with strangers. If you live in a city or you're flexible with your timing, carpooling usually only adds on a few minutes to your journey time, so you'd be crazy not to take advantage. The problem is that neither company has dedicated carpooling cars, so they can be a bit uncomfortable and cramped.

Thankfully, Argo, a new transport startup out of Mexico, is poised to shake up this space. Not only do they have new 'optional sub-compartment' vehicles that let users hop in and out without bothering each other, but they've also introduced a mean matchmaking system for organising trips. More than a few friendships and even marriages have come out of Argo carpools, and while they won't make any guarantees, it's definitely a fun option to try at least once.

There are plenty more transport options available. A few of the more interesting ones include:

YeloCity: If you haven't seen their bright yellow recumbent trikes around town, then you need your glasses looked at. YeloCity's trikes harness your pedal-power while the trike takes care of steering and braking, which means you can enjoy the scenery around town while getting some exercise at the same time. And if you're worried about working up too much of a sweat before an important date or meeting, an on-board electric motor means that even steep uphill climbs are made easy. A fun addition to any car plan.

Civic Express: Civic Express is an open-source transport platform run by a non-profit co-op network that operates in 35 countries. More importantly, Civic Express is almost always the cheapest way of travelling more than a hundred kilometres in any country thanks to its S3 ‘Smart Scheduling System'. Tell Civic Express where you want to go and how flexible your schedule is, and within a day it’ll charter a suitably-sized car, minibus, or coach for everyone making the same approximate journey. It's not the fastest or most convenient way of getting around, but if you're on basic minimum income or you're just happy to take your time and meet new people, Civic Express is the way to go.

High Lux: Unlike Challenger or CarSnap, these cars aren't designed for efficiency — instead, they're fitted out for sheer comfort. You can choose from new models from Kenworthy or retrofitted classic cars such as a Mercedes-Benz CLK, a BMW 5 Series, an Aston Martin DB9, or a Tesla Roadster. High Lux isn't cheap, but it's a real treat for a special occasion — plus they even keep the steering wheels in the cars so you can pretend to drive just like your mom and dad used to!

Happy travels!