It's not just micromobility -- minimobility is where the action is


With all the excitement about micromobility (scooters) I want to talk more about "minimobility" where is where I think the action will be in short-haul urban transportation. Narrow, small short-range cars for 1-2 people, enclosed and self driving. Half the energy and road space of cars, 1/5th the parking space and many other things to love. Few buy these today because they are too special purpose, but most should be willing to ride in them as self-driving taxis.

More details are in this Forbes site article Between cars and micromobility there is a revolution in minimobility


Hi Brad,
I guess you're going to continue publishing all your articles on Forbes. I'm sad. I've been a long time fan of yours, and I can't understand why you have decided to do this. Forbes in not a great magazine, first of all. And all your beautiful articles are now going to be behind a paywall.
I hope you will reconsider. I am still a fan, but I won't be able to follow you like before.

There should not be a paywall. There may be a bunch of ads, and I do understand that this is annoying. It's allowing me to reach some new audiences. Some articles there don't seem to do much better than just posting them here, a few have taken off quite well though.

Let me know if you are encountering a paywall.

Also, I will mostly be doing transportation there. Some other articles will be only here.

Note that I created a special node and RSS feed at -- this contains posts from here which are not links to forbes. So you can read only those or you can combine that with the forbes RSS feed to not see the posts that are just links. You can even access that feed on this site at if you don't want to pull it from the Forbes site.

An overhead cable suspension or rail might be even cheaper to build than tunnels or bridges, with the added benefit of eliminating the inevitable encroachment by pedestrians, bicycles, and motorcycles. Roller coaster companies have developed all sorts of overhead rail systems, maybe they could adapt to transportation.

The problem with any specialized infrastructure is then it's only good for the vehicles designed just for it. Pavement is the only winner because it carries everything, including future vehicles, and it's cheap and well understood. Even if a cable or rail is cheaper, it only carries the specific vehicles meant for it. Never make your infrastructure "smart" and single purpose. Make it as general purpose as possible and let innovation take place in the vehicles. That's the only way to get innovation, which always beats whatever temporary advantages any special infrastructure may have today.

Street legal up to at least 45 mph, range of at least 50 miles (now and 8 years from now), climate controlled, and cheap, and I'm in. I haven't found anything meeting that criteria, yet. So I'll stick with my 7-year-old hybrid, for now.

I think the biggest problem with the options out there now is that they're expensive. A 2018 Smart ForTwo goes for $24,650. That's more than a 2019 Prius C. It's not much less than a 2020 Prius Prime, which has enough all-electric range (25 miles) to take me to work and back.

Make one for $12,000, and I'm in. Maybe even $15,000, but in that case I'd probably wait until my hybrid dies first.

Most of the other options either aren't street legal at 45 mph (NEVs only are legal up to 35 mph roads), aren't climate controlled, or aren't easily available in the USA today.

Govt could do something about that. NEVs could be street legal up to 45 mph roads, at least during rush hour. Top speed seems to be the problem that causes the price to be so high.

The Twizzy is 7,000 Euros plus battery for the base one, but if you made it quantity 200,000 it would be cheaper.

However, the point of my article is that these vehicles come in to their own when you can hire one and it comes to you. (Even if you had to drive it after it comes to you.)

In fact, it's not strictly necessary it be cheaper for that. However, if it is cheaper to make, and cheaper to run, it will be cheaper to hire, and that will make it a popular choice to summon.

The problem with the Twizy is not that you can't hire one. The problem with it is that it's not street legal on the roads that people need to use.

If a car is cheaper to make, and cheaper to run, it may or may not be cheaper to hire. Depends on how much cheaper to make/run, and how much impact the cut-corners have on idle time and dead miles. If it's just a little bit cheaper to make/run (and that seems to be the case, perhaps because small cars that travel quickly are expensive to make safe enough to pass government safety regulations), then it's probably not worth it for a consumer or a robotaxi company.

It looks like once again that government regulations are the problem. Let people drive more slowly, or less safely, on public roads, and more people will use mini-cars.

Correct, it is not street legal (though it is NEV legal for low speed roads.) However, you see them in France and a few other places. It is possible to make a small car that is compliant. And I think it will be even easier to make a small robocar, since in a robocar you can take out vast amounts of stuff you don't need. It may not cost half of the cost of a $13,000 Nissan Versa or Chevy Spark, but I think it can pretty easily get under $10K -- in fact I think it can get under $10K including sensors and computers, at least in mass quantities. Enough to be cheap to run while depreciation remains the largest cost.

Under $10K and street legal up to at least 45 mph and I'll buy one, whether it's autonomous or not.

Mini-tunnel is a cool idea!

I agree upfront cost doesn't matter for robotaxis. The key is to make them safe (obviously) and durable so you can spread the upfront cost over more miles.

Traffic privileges are the #1 key to making these work. Along with making sure they don't look too goofy. A 2x4 pack of these would take the same space as a pair of cars, but carry 8 commuters instead of two. That's a 4x improvement in congestion, giving cities a strong incentive to create such privileges.

Goofy can be an issue, but early adopters actually like to look distinctive. Look at the Prius, which was ugly as sin, but said, "look at me, saving the planet while you destroy it."

However, once you get privileges, like even a few tunnels, people, even rich ones who can afford a Mercedes S Class, will line up.

Ppl wth hlthy BMs dn't mnd wlkng qrtr ml. Hnc, thy dn't nd 'mcrmblty' sltn.

Ths s why wht Brd ftn thnks s th bs kns ds nt ppl t th mnstrm.

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