The Future Of Your Commute

This content is recommended for 30~60 minute sessions. Note that tutors may not be familiar with the content. Make sure you consult with your tutor before using this material. 


After a quick greeting, read the following article out loud. Your tutor will go over pronunciation if necessary.

[P1] The way we move through the world is undergoing a deep tectonic shift. Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft have come to dominate a new market, where people pay for miles instead of buying vehicles, and the same model is now, controversially, being applied to scooters. Cars can actually drive themselves, under certain conditions. But what will this mean for the future of how we commute?

[P2] Co.Design spoke to eight venture capitalists from firms like Andreessen Horowitz and Google Ventures as well as smaller, transportation-focused funds to learn what version of the future they’re betting on and how they think people will move around cities and the world in the coming years. They might be sitting in shiny Silicon Valley offices, but these are the people deciding where the money goes. Where they invest–or don’t–could transform your commute.

[P3] Ridesharing is here to stay–emphasis on sharing. Investor Rob Coneybeer, the managing director of Shasta Ventures, points out that even though ridesharing has grown in popularity in the United States and beyond, many vehicles on the road remain underused. “When you look at some of the more mature Uber and Lyft markets, the percentage of their rides that are pool rides are very large,” he says.

[P4] Will it replace public transit? In some places, it might. Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi recently announced he wants “to run the bus systems for a city”; in Altamonte Springs, Florida, the local government has done away with public transit altogether in favor of subsidized Uber rides. London-based transit company Citymapper launched a bus-like service earlier this year. Cities, though, are fighting back by adding increased surcharges to every ride, which will go toward funding public transit.

[P5] Tech companies already gather obscene amounts of data about our activity online. But as cars become smarter, transportation companies will similarly gather data, much of it from the sensors and cameras necessary to make semi-autonomous and fully self-driving cars work.

[P6] Why should commuters care? Companies collecting the data will likely sell it. So far from being a private space that takes you from point A to B, cars will be another surveilled space. If your gaze lingers on a billboard, prepare for an onslaught of ads from that company. If you make a reckless move, prepare for your insurance premium to rise.

[P7] It’s not happening yet, according to Olaf Sakkers of Israel-based Maniv Mobility, and for a temporary reason: Automakers don’t yet understand what to do with the data they are collecting. “Those car makers know that the data is valuable,” he says. “Compare them to Smeagol or Gollum. They hold on to it and they stroke it. They’ve uploaded their precious to Amazon Web Services. But they don’t know how to make money off it, so they’re losing money on it.”

[P8] It’s true. Uber plans to deploy flying taxis in Dubai and Dallas, Texas, by 2020. And Joe Kraus, general partner at Google Ventures, says that flying cars are a lot closer than people believe–even if society might not be ready for them yet.

[P9] Right now, the closest technology we have is helicopters–which, crucially, don’t require a runway to lift into the air, and let you fly right over traffic. But helicopters are too expensive for an everyday commute (unless you’re a billionaire), not to mention that the aircraft are complex to fly and create a tremendous amount of noise pollution. “It’s going to happen,” he says. “Then I think there’s all sorts of opportunity around that. It’s very analogous to self-driving cars.”

[P10] While some investors are betting on a future of flying cars, others are staying closer to Earth. Jeff Jordan, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, sees more dockless urban mobility solutions on the horizon. Docked bike-share programs, like the Citi Bike program in New York, have had some significant problems, including that they require heavy financial subsidies to be sustainable and they exclude riders who aren’t near docks. Dockless bikes (and scooters), however, solve that last-mile problem, because you can park the bikes anywhere (much to the chagrin of many city officials and residents). The business model can also be more sustainable because you don’t have to build infrastructure for docking stations.

[P11] Still, Jordan believes there is demand for a service that takes you the last mile or even replaces your entire commute. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be driverless or airborne. The future of transportation won’t depend entirely on autonomous vehicles or their flying brethren. Even some of the oldest ways of getting around–like biking–are still ripe for disruption and have the potential to shake up the future of transportation just as much as a LIDAR-laden supercar.



Read the word/expression and definition out loud. Your tutor will go over anything you do not understand. Practice creating a sentence or two to make sure you know how to use the word/expression properly.

Vocabulary/ Expressions

Expression Definition
surcharge (n) an amount of money that must be paid in addition to the regular price
e.g. The airline has added a $20 fuel surcharge on all international flights.
surveil (v) keep (a person or place) under surveillance
e.g. He deployed FBI agents to surveil the offices of those companies.
deploy (v) to organize and send out (people or things) to be used for a particular purpose
e.g. The troops were deployed for battle.
subsidy (n) money that is paid usually by a government to keep the price of a product or service low or to help a business or organization to continue to function
e.g. housing/farm subsidies
brethren (n) used especially to begin to talk in a formal way to a group of people or to refer to the members of a particular group (plural of brother)
e.g. Welcome, brethren

Discussion Questions

Use the following questions as a guideline to help develop an interesting conversation with your tutor. Feel free to diverge from these suggestions if anything interesting comes up.

  1. Summarize the article in your own words.
  2. Is ridesharing popular in your county? Do you think it can replace public transit system?
  3. What does the author mean by “cars no longer be private”?
  4. What do you think the future of commuting would look like in your country? Share your thoughts with your Cambly tutor!


Go over any new expressions or vocabulary that you learned today.

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