ATLANTA — The future of mobility is ACES.
The acronym stands for "autonomous, connected, electric and shared." To the true believers, that means in 10 to 20 years cars will drive themselves, they'll be "smart" and battery-powered, and they'll be part of a large shared fleet. The path to this future is fast and furious.
We learned this today while visiting Manheim Metro Atlanta's mobility hub, a subsidiary of Cox Automotive. You can think of Manheim as offering a sneak preview of the changes expected to come to the U.S. transportation system. Manheim owns a fleet of both electric- and gasoline-powered cars, which it helps clean, service, detail and charge. And through a partnership with Lyft Inc., drivers with the ride-hailing service can lease those vehicles and drive them around the city.
Julian Cowart, director of client experience at Manheim, gave us a tour. He explained that many Lyft drivers choose not to purchase and maintain their own car, for either financial or personal reasons. So they lease a car from Manheim, which is conveniently located 3 miles from both the Atlanta airport and downtown.
According to Cowart, Manheim also solves an equity problem related to electric vehicles. Most of Atlanta's public EV charging stations are located in the upscale corridor that runs from the Midtown neighborhood into Buckhead and the surrounding areas. But many Lyft drivers live on the south side of the city.
On top of that, many Lyft drivers are not able to install a charging system at their homes.
"There are a lot of people who live in multiunit dwellings or they can't afford it," Cowart said. "They're not going to put a $2,000 Level 2 charger on the side of their house."
While touring Manheim, we took advantage of the DC fast charger in the parking lot, which charged our Nissan Leaf in 20 minutes. That's much faster than the Level 2 public charging stations we've used for most of this trip, which take six to eight hours to deliver a full charge.
Later today, we'll hop in the Leaf and drive to Georgia Tech, where we'll meet with professors and students doing research on EV batteries. Then we'll attend an EV Club of the South meeting at Manuel's Tavern, where we'll meet with EV advocates and share some of these lessons about the future of transportation.