Driverless Cars Could Make Transportation Free for Everyone -- With a Catch

A Google self-driving car on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

In a world full of autonomous autos, transportation will become free. Not just hands-free, or driver-free, or go-wherever-you-want free. But free as in beer: complimentary, gratis. Summon a car and travel for nothing -- that is, so long as you are willing to make a stop or two en route at sponsoring locations. Picture a not-too-distant future where a trip across town is available to anyone who will spend 15 minutes in McDonald's on the way. Not a fast-food fan? Then for you it's Starbucks, a bookstore, the game parlor. Rides with a child stop at the Disney store, while teenage girls are routed via next decade's version of Zara and H&M. Unlike today's UberPool, with its roundabout routes and multiple passenger pickups, "UberFree" features tailor-made routes and thoughtfully targeted stops. Realtors could pay to have the cars drive slowly past featured properties for sale, past the nice new elementary school in the slightly more affluent neighborhood.

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