How would Driverless Taxis impact local economies?

By Jamie Hill - 22 November 2018

Expert VoicesMotoring

Automation has been doing normal people out of jobs since the industrial revolution, so it’s far from a new phenomenon that with advancements in technology, old, manually performed tasks are being mechanised for increased efficiency and profit. One of the latest such areas – motoring – is experiencing its own such revolution, with the consequences plentiful.

With companies such as Google, Tesla and – if rumours are to be believed – Apple all spearheading the fast expanding self-driving car market, those who make their living as drivers of any kind are being mist directly threatened. Tesla have already launched their own lorry with huge orders placed from the likes of Pepsi, so rather than being a future concern, this is already well underway.

For taxi drivers this is doubly troubling, however. Having already once had to completely readjust when the likes of Uber flooded their market in one technological tsunami, the same type of businesses are experimenting with doing away with drivers altogether, which just begs the question – how long before you order a taxi from your smartphone and a car pulls up outside with nobody driving it?

Do Driverless Vehicles Work?

While there are already models from Tesla available to buy that already have self-driving capabilities, somebody still has to be behind the wheel of the car just in case.

Not yet fully driverless – at least in the road legal sense – these vehicles can steer, break, accelerate, change lanes, turn, indicate and anticipate moving traffic and pedestrians in much the same way a human driver could, which does feel like science fiction coming to life.

Taking it one step further than Tesla though, Google’s models that’ve been tested so far do not require steering wheels or pedals in order to operate. Not yet commercially available – and with no likely date for when that will be – much testing is still required before these cars are signed off as being completely safe and allowed on the road.

There are persistent rumours that both Apple and Uber are working on their own competing models, too, so with so many of the world’s largest and cash rich companies investing heavily in the same area, the timeframe in which they’re likely to make it on to our streets is shrinking.

What Changes Will We See?

Local economies are likely to suffer in the event of fully self-driving vehicles becoming widely available, with taxi and delivery jobs those being directly threatened in the most obvious manner. By cutting the cost of paying a driver, requiring no human interface with apps already in place for ordering, the traditional taxi rank could fast go extinct.

Backed by the government now too, Chancellor Phillip Hammond has already pledged driverless cars by 2021 and warned people to retrain. However, some analysts believe that timeframe to be overly optimistic, and predict that it will still be 20 to 30 years before this type of technology becomes commonplace. So, in the meantime, rather than going to Google, Tesla or Apple for your taxi, it’s still an idea to visit somewhere like Cab Direct.

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