Sitting in a car or taxi driven by somebody else provides us with a lot of relaxation. Most of us don’t feel good about driving to the office in the morning. And in the evening, even the imagination of driving back home in heavy traffic makes us all sick. Of course, it’s very tiring and exhaustive to drive back home after long working hours. But the truth remains not many people hire a taxi or have a chauffeur-driven car; they have to drive themselves, no matter what. You must be wondering why on earth I am talking about something that you already know or go through daily. Well, don’t worry, I am not going to talk about the problem anymore; what I am going to talk about is the solution. In this post, I am going to talk about the revolution in the Taxi world and how self-driving cars are successfully making their way in the market.
As the name says it all, a self-driving taxi, also known as a driverless taxi, or a Robo-taxi, is an autonomous car. These self-driving cars eliminate the need for a human chauffeur wholly or partially. Autonomous cars could make for a very affordable solution for the customers as the cost of a driver is eliminated. However, it raises the issue of shrinking employment for people involved in driving jobs.
According to reports, autonomous cars or taxis could be major mobility solutions soon, especially in urban areas. Moreover, it is highlighted in many studies that these taxis could have a significantly positive impact on road safety, traffic congestion, and parking. Concerning pollution and energy consumption, self-driving taxis could lead to significant improvement.
Currently, Didi’s Robo-taxis are deployed to carry passengers on the roads of Shanghai. This unmanned or driverless car is among the first self-driving taxis — or Robo-taxis in the world. Over 10,000 passengers have already requested for the test drive. People register themselves via Didi’s app. Didi’s Robo-taxis are equipped with cameras and sensors to easily see nearby traffic and monitor a conventional vehicle’s blind spots.
At present, Didi’s Robo-taxi service includes a human driver at the wheel. But they aim to eliminate the need for human drivers in the future. These autonomous taxis use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to operate. Autonomous taxis can move through dense traffic and under all tropical weather conditions. Other Chinese cities, where Didi is planning to rollout Robo-taxis, include Guangzhou and Chongqing.
Tesla Self-Driving Taxis
Tesla, Inc. is planning to launch its Robo-taxis service by 2020. In April 2019, Elon Musk, CEO, Tesla Inc., said, “I feel very confident predicting autonomous Robo-taxi for Tesla next year. Not in all jurisdictions, because we won’t have regulatory approval everywhere, but I’m confident we’ll have at least regulatory approvals somewhere, literally next year.” According to Tesla Inc., customers will be able to add their car to the “Tesla Network”. The company is going to follow the combination of Uber and Airbnb models. Car owners would be able to add or subtract their cars from the network at any time. In exchange, Tesla will take between 25-30% of the revenue. However, in places where there will be fewer cars shared by car owners, Tesla will have its dedicated vehicles.
Apart from Tesla Inc., the other companies who are planning to launch autonomous cars are; Japan’s Robot Taxi, a joint venture between DeNA and ZMP, Delphi, Daimler AG along with Bosch, Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance in partnership with Transdev and DeNA, Volkswagen, Hyundai, General Motors in partnership with Lyft, Ford Motors, Daimler AG in collaboration with Uber, BMW, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in partnership with Intel and Mobileye, Honda, Baidu in collaboration with Nvidia, to name a few.
Benefits of Autonomous Taxis
1. Reduced Accidents & Increased Safety
The first and most significant advantage of driverless taxis is safety. Autonomous taxis have the potential to reduce the number of accidents. According to reports, more than 37,000 people die in accidents every year, out of which 95% are due to human errors. Distracted driving, driving under drug or alcohol influence, make the roads unsafe. Self-driving taxis are meant to provide safe and enjoyable rides to the commuters. Autonomous vehicles, including Robo-taxis, will perform defensive yet assertive driving in a mixed traffic environment.
2. Reduced Traffic Congestion
Autonomous taxis will not only result in reduced accidents, but also driverless taxis will largely reduce traffic congestion. Human drivers tend to create stop-and-go traffic, which will be eliminated to a great extent by self-driving taxis. Apart from this, due to the AI system in autonomous taxis, they will follow the most optimal routes via live maps.
3. Reduced Fuel Consumption
Besides reducing accidents and traffic congestion, autonomous taxis have the potential to reduce fuel consumption.
4. Reduced Emissions
Another essential benefit of having autonomous taxis is reduced CO2 emissions. Almost all vehicles produce air pollution throughout their life cycle, which impacts the air that we breathe. But the Robo-taxis will be programmed to reduce emissions to the maximum extent possible. It will not only improve air quality but also will impact the planet earth positively.
5. Traffic Management
Autonomous vehicles need to stay within their lane, monitor speed, and keep a safe distance from other travellers and potential obstacles. This will help to have organized traffic in the city.
6. First/Last Mile Services
Many cities are not able to provide adequate public transportation to commuters. However, autonomous taxis are positioned to provide first/last-mile services to connect passengers to public transit.
7. Reduced Travel Time
According to the report, autonomous taxis are likely to cut travel time by up to 40%. This is going to impact people’s life hugely.
8. Reduced Travel Cost
Another benefit of autonomous taxis will be reduced travel costs. Since these vehicles will be driverless, it will impact the travel cost. Commuters will have to pay lesser compared to taxis with drivers.
9. Efficient Parking
The second largest problem after city traffic is car parking, especially in bigger cities. But in the case of autonomous vehicles, the problem will be solved to a great extent. Autonomous cars have the potential to park themselves away from the destination and free up significant real estate for other uses. Personal autonomous cars will drop the commuters at a location and park itself away from the destination, wherever there is space.
10. Ease to the Commuters
Self-driving taxis are meant to provide ease to the commuters. With autonomous vehicles running in the city, passengers will be at ease. Mass transit will be connected to a single mobile app. Commuters will need to pay a flat fee for transportation on one of many types of autonomous vehicles such as taxis, buses, trains, cars, and shuttles. With the help of the single AI-linked app, commuters would be able to book passage. Besides, commuters will also have the option to pick the best ride-share solution that fits their needs.
Future of Self-driving Taxis
It is claimed that most of the companies will launch their autonomous cars by 2025. This means the future belongs to autonomous taxis and cars. Now, a self-driving car won’t be a distant dream. However, the deployment of self-driving cars will happen in phases. Like, Level 2 automation, also known as Driver assistance and active safety systems are already launched in many states and will continue to become more widespread on personal vehicles. Level 3 systems, which can operate without the active engagement of the driver. However, these systems will probably be restricted to low-speed traffic. And, Level 4 automated vehicles or remote driving systems will be absolutely driverless.
The widespread deployment of Level 4 automated vehicles will take time, maybe a decade or more for favorable environments. Despite substantial recent progress, significant challenges remain before we see the disruptive rollout of fully automated driving systems with no safety driver onboard over large areas. The expansion will happen gradually, region-by-region in specific categories of transportation.
Impact of Self-Driving Taxis on Drivers
Since Level 2 and Level 3 systems do need human drivers on board, these systems will have a limited impact on jobs. As human drivers may need to intervene at any moment. However, increasing the availability of Level 2 and Level 3 systems may impact the nature of work for professional drivers. But these systems won’t impact job numbers to a great extent that other systems might because these systems must have human drivers on boards.
Also, the longer rollout time for Level 4 automated taxis will provide time to the companies for sustained investments in workforce training that can help drivers switch to new careers that support mobility systems and technologies. Drivers can even consider learning a digital skillset. Learning a digital skillset can help drivers and other mobile workers to have an additional earning source. Since the widespread rollout of Level 4 automated systems will take time, human workers will remain essential for these systems.
In the case of Level 4 remote driving systems, driving jobs are likely to move from vehicles to fixed-location centres. Though the skillsets required for these jobs are substantially unknown; however, these jobs could be a combination of technician, dispatcher, call-centre, and maintenance roles with strong language skills. And there will be more advanced engineering roles which will require strong technical training.
It can be said that the revolution in the Taxi world will have a relatively lesser impact on jobs than many have predicted. Because of the technological challenges and risks that remain, human efforts will be required even for more structured environments.
Commuting, without putting your hands on the wheel and feet on the pedals is no more a distant dream!!