My week without a car and the impact of technology
Disclaimer: This blog post has been in my drafts for a little while now, but ideas and concepts still apply. This experiment was not done on purpose, but got me thinking about getting out my comfort zone more often. I got a new car since!
Sometimes, Karma is a bitch… When you live in Atlanta, owning a car should be considered as a physiological need according to Maslow… right there with water, food, sex, and wifi! Unfortunately, cars are as convenient as they can be a pain in the butt.
When I first moved to the U.S., I bought a cheap pre-owned blue Mitsubishi Galant so I could go from interview to interview, and eventually get my first job. A “cheap” car can quickly become a money hole. That’s what happens when you don’t bet on the right horse, and end up going to the mechanic too often.
Once I became a marketing coordinator, I thought it was time to “invest” in a car. I got a Nissan Altima 2009. Me and my car got along for quite a while without any issue.
When I started working for Greenway Health, she (my car) didn’t like all those miles I put on her in such a short amount of time. Our relationship changed. She wasn’t the same anymore…
Later on, when my commute got shorter, it seemed to be a good time to take my sweet and reliable car to the shop to get new tires, new brakes, and an oil change. Spending money on car maintenance has never been on the top of my list. But even if the bill was high, it felt good to be proactive for once.
Even though I thought I did everything I could, shit still happens.
On Friday afternoons, I usually feel great after my workout! But that day, when I went back to my car, my start button wasn’t working. It happened in the past, but putting my key in the fob would fix the issue. Not this time…
It took a while to fix this.
Here are the lessons I’ve learned during my week without a car.
You’ll find out who your true friends are
I’ve always heard you can count your real friends on one hand.
I’ve also heard you could give a phone call to a true friend, tell them you killed someone, and their answer would be “Where do you wanna hide the body?”.
As much I agree with the first, I’m not so sure about the second…
So there I was, in my car which didn’t want to start. Before doing anything major and expensive, I tried to call some friends, and see if anyone could help.
Have you ever tried to call your friends in this type of situation? A lot of them will turn you down without any hesitation. Others will find any excuse to avoid doing anything that could get them out of their daily routine.
But there’s always someone you know you can count on.
After a few unanswered calls and texts reading “Busy right now”, one of my friends picked up. The great news was he knows a lot about cars, and was very helpful. Still, we didn’t find what the problem was.
It was getting dark, and it was time for me to go home. My friend dropped me off at my place. I will have to go back to my back car tomorrow.
Some places aren’t as far as you thought!
The next morning, I got back to my car early because I was worried something could have happened overnight.
But how would I get there? The obvious and convenient option was to take an Uber.
Being in the middle of Atlanta, it didn’t take too long to get a ride. I was at my car without minutes.
I asked my driver if he was ok waiting for me for a few minutes in case my car still didn’t start. It was a very nice of him to say yes.
After unplugging the battery for the entire night, I plugged it back in. I tried to start the car one more time, but it still wasn’t working.
I had to use the same Uber driver for several trips trying to replace the battery, but that wasn’t the issue. After all these attempts, it was time for me to give up. I got my car towed to the dealership.
I found out later it was a faulty issue so there’s a 6-year extended warranty (Yaaay) which expired 3 weeks prior (Noooo). I tried to negotiate with the regional center for days, but I ended up paying $1,000 after leaving the car at the shop for a week.
Weeks later, once my car was fixed, I was still thinking about the multiple Uber trips I had to do that day. It now felt silly to drive to the gym, so I wanted to see how long it would take me to run there instead.
Turns out running to the gym took me only twice the time of driving there, and about the same time I spent on the treadmilll! Silly me! I’m so used to taking my car everywhere.
Since then, I’ve been walking and running to the gym more often. It’s a great way to start my workout, and a better use of my time. On top of that, I don’t have to worry about finding a parking spot anymore.
You’ll realize how important taking care of your car is
This one seems obvious, but when you’re not car savvy like me, it’s easy to succumb to that common pitfall.
Maintaining my car has never been a priority, especially when money was scarce. It wasn’t the smartest decision, and I’ve learned it the hard way.
I usually go to Firestone when a vehicle inspection is required, or if something comes up. Besides having multiple locations close to my place, I love Firestone because they have great service, but also great waiting areas. It’s functional enough (plugs, internet, TV…) so I can be productive.
At the end of my inspections, they give me a list of things that need to be fixed. At that time, I only took care of the critical items since I didn’t have the money to do more. Also, it was hard for me to trust someone purely based on their knowledge, which I don’t have. How can you make a good judgement about what to fix when you don’t have a clue about what they’re talking about?
As a rule of thumb now, I always repair more than I think I should. Not fixing your car on time always ends up being more expensive in the long run.
It’s possible to live without a car thanks to technology
Want to have a good night and avoid DUIs? Tired of not finding a parking spot or paying $20 for one? Services like Uber or Lyft can help you avoid these inconveniences.
Some of my friends got that long before I did. At the time, I couldn’t understand why they would pay someone to drive them places, when they already had a car.
When my company started to accept electronic receipts for expense reports, I thought I’d give it a try. On my next business trip, I took an Uber from my place to the closest Marta station, Atlanta’s terrible metro transportation. Marta would then take me straight to the airport.
If you count the money I would have spent on gas and airport parking fees, the Uber/Marta combo was way cheaper. On top of that, the driver was really nice. The driver rating feature sure has a positive impact on providing great customer experiences, most of the time…
Following the path of companies like Zappos, Uber, but also Airbnb, have incorporated customer service into their core values, putting a big focus on giving guidelines to their drivers or hosts.
Depending on where you live, I do realize the “Uber vs. car owning” might not a reality for everybody. If you live in big city like Atlanta though, it’s becoming more prevalent every day.
Can the convenience of these services be greater than owning a car? Uber knows it’s a big question to answer. After seeing users trying to explain it, Uber has been creating more content about the benefits of using Uber vs. owning a car, especially since launching their new car pool option.
With Tesla and Google working on self-driving cars, I’m convinced this will be a reality soon.
Experts agree but think it will take at least a decade before the jobs of Uber drivers are threaten.
Here are some of the reasons:
- Legal issues: only 5 U.S. states have adopted laws to make self-driving cars legal so far: California, Nevada, Michigan, Florida, and Washington D.C.
- Psychology, also called “social rules”: There’s thousand of social rules that humans rely on to handle the complexity of driving, and avoid accidents. How can “teach” those to a computer? This big ethical question around self-driving cars is creating a big debate around the Laws of Robotics and the Trolley Problem.
- Technology isn’t fully ready: Google Maps isn’t accurate enough, and updatable fast enough to allow a self-driving car to function properly. Those maps don’t even include all the signage. And what about security? When Robert Scoble, technology evangelist, recently asked Mercedes “why don’t you allow over-the-air updates like Tesla does?” Their answer showed they are afraid of hackers.
A decade isn’t that long. That’s just a nice way to say the next generation of potential drivers won’t even think about owning a car.
Have you ever spent a week without a car? Share your experience and feedback by commenting below!