As self driving cars come closer and closer to a realization, the taxi/ride hailing industry prepares for upheaval. nuTonomy kick started self driving taxis when they put their vehicles on the road in Singapore and quickly paired with Grab, a ride hailing service. Since then, self driving taxi services have spread across the world. Like nuTonomy, all self driving car taxis have had a safety driver behind the wheel, until now. After eight years of testing their self driving technology across six states, Waymo, Google’s autonomous vehicle play, announced that they will begin offering self driving taxis that don’t require a person behind the wheel in Phoenix.
This is a huge step for autonomous vehicles, but it is telling that the first application of full self driving capabilities is self driving taxis. Many view this new venture as the future of car ownership, where people own cars less and are more likely to use ride hailing with autonomous vehicles. The opportunity for companies is so enticing since there will be no driver taking a cut of the income. The two major ride hailing companies in the United States have both become big players in the market; Uber has been developing their own cars and technology, and Lyft’s plans are to partner with companies that have their own cars.
Some companies are planning on developing autonomous vehicle technology not for typical cars but more geared towards higher capacity vehicles and public transportation. Navya is one company planning to do just that. They began testing the vehicles at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and have expanded to Las Vegas, even though the vehicle made mistakes early on in its debut. Other companies, like Tesla, envision individual owners of cars lending out their cars when they aren’t using them.
The advent of self driving taxis does not come without its drawbacks though. Every crash in a self driving taxi will receive major press and create media storms, causing people to lose confidence in the services. Self driving taxis will also displace most all taxi drivers, of which there are over 200,000 in the US alone. As the technology progress, there will be hurdles to cross, but autonomous vehicles are coming soon in the form of self driving taxis.