It's 1995, and it's France. You're a cog in the Peugeot-Citroën machine, and you've been tasked with helping with a new and important all-electric car sharing prototype called the Tulip.
Do you rejoice and tell your friends it's amazing that the minds PSA have surely (as history has shown us) predicted the future? Or do you leave work early and drown your sorrows by crying into a case of trappist lager and drunkenly buy broken laser pointers on eBay?
I'm not sure what I'd have done, but the concept seems to make a lot of sense, with aspects used in a number of car sharing services. When we lived in Toronto, I was a happy, card-carrying member of Car2Go, which was surprisingly convenient, affordable, and (usually) one of the fastest ways for two to get around town.
The Tulip was a network of induction-charged electric city cars that were charged, docked, and rented from small "relay points" that today are mostly analogous to the Tesla Superwhateverchargingthingies the company has installed at hundreds of locations.
In 1995, the system relied on "personal remote control units" for customers in lieu of cell phones; a phone was built into the car.
Acceleration was a priority, but the car didn't have much go—just consider its dumpy top speed of 75 km/h (46 mph). No matter; the bright tulip-coloured interior would have kept your eyes entertained. Unlike the Car2Go units that are subtly modified for fleet use inside and out, the Tulip is a car built for public use, and so looks like a flat-floor bus that's been to Wayne Szalinski's laboratory.
That said, the key here is the year, 1995. Urban transport, car sharing, electric city runabouts—it's nothing new. What is new are the ways these things are being implemented, with the cell phone, GPS, and "always-on" internet mingling with the possibility of autonomous operation.
The worst thing about Car2Go was parking; often a lot near my work was full by the time I arrived, and I earned at least one ticket for fully-utilizing the parking lot space to fit the fortwo…sometimes even if there was no "real" space available. Walking away from a rented car that's able to drive itself home? Sign me up.
Anyway, It's been 20 years since the Tulip. The idea is as modern and fresh as it would be in 2015, but the technology needs a bit of work. I suspect it won't take engineers much longer to figure out the problems associated with car sharing.