Toyota’s U.S. research and development arm has thought up a unique way to reduce the costs of a ride-sharing service.
A patent filed by Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America (TEMA) and uncovered by AutoGuide.com describes a ride-sharing system where passengers can offset the price of their fares by helping to charge the electric vehicle’s batteries. This is done by pedaling or turning a crank inside the vehicle, as the figure below shows, which would help to recuperate some of the EV’s energy. The harder the occupants pedal, the more money they save on their fare.
Toyota seems interested in such an idea as charging an electric vehicle that is to be used for ridesharing purposes brings with it a number of challenges. If the batteries of a theoretical autonomous EV went flat, it would have to drive itself back to a docking station and charge up before it can be put back into service. By implementing this solution, a self-driving Toyota EV of the future may not have to take itself out of service to charge back up as often. In theory, everybody wins: consumers get their fare reduced, and Toyota’s self-driving taxis get to stay in service longer.
That said, this idea does seem needlessly complicated. Most folks would be better off walking or riding their bike, or just hailing the vehicle and not showing up to their destination covered in sweat in exchange for a slight fare reduction. Call us pessimists, but this seems like yet another example of Silicon Valley types inventing something that already exists – in this case, a bicycle.
Additional reporting by Dennis Chung
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