Will Driverless Taxis Hit the Road by 2019?

December 3, 2018
Amanda Peterson

Did you know that over 1.25 million people die each year as a result of car accidents? According to the World Health Organization, without sustained action, car accidents are predicted to become the seventh leading cause of death by 2030. There’s a clear theme to almost all of these incidents: human error and inattention. Of all vehicle-related fatalities, 94 percent are impacted by human choice or error, including causes associated with: speeding, alcohol, distraction and drowsiness.  

Self-driving technology companies (like Waymo, who originated from Google’s self-driving car project in 2009) have made it their mission to eliminate these tragedies on the road. In fact, Waymo is planning to fully launch its self-driving taxi service throughout Phoenix, Arizona by the end of the year.

Waymo Chrysler Pacifica in Los Altos
By Dllu - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Waymo envisions a world that is safe and easy for everyone to get around, without tired, distracted, or drunk driving. Their proposed solution? Autonomous vehicles. Since 2009, the company has manufactured vehicles equipped with sensors and software that are designed to detect pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles, road work and more. Waymo’s vehicles are powered by artificial intelligence, which relies on information they’ve gathered through 10 million miles of road experience.

They’re currently refining the self-driving experience for riders through their Early Rider Program, which allows participants to use their self-driving cars to go places they frequent every day, from work, to school, to the movies and more. Early riders report their experiences to the company, and so far, reviews seem positive. Lilla Gaffney, a self-described “tech nerd” signed up for the Early Rider Program over a year ago and has used Waymo to supplement traditional transportation methods in her daily routine.

The Verge writes,“Gaffney says she prefers Waymo to local taxis or ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft because it’s predictable: she always gets the same model vehicle, with the same interior amenities. It’s clean, it’s comfortable, and she enjoys being a guinea pig in a futuristic experimentation.”

Not only are self-driving vehicles seeking to improve safety measures on the road, but are also creating a more enjoyable experience for commuters. With autonomous vehicles in the driver’s seat, time spend on the road can be spent doing what you want, whether it be streaming television, reading the paper, or getting a head start on work before you even reach the office.

Introducing self-driving vehicles as a taxi service additionally offers value in its pricing. Because driverless transportation companies don’t need to pay wages to drivers, they can offer transportation services at a cheaper fare. Ford, who announced just this week that they are deploying a driverless fleet across Washington D.C. in partnership with Argo AI, has yet to disclose an expected rate to consumers. The company did reveal to investors however, that the cost of operating a driverless transportation service would be about $1 per mile. According to Ford’s calculations, that’s compared with about $2.50 for an Uber; between $1.50 and 70 cents for a personal car; and 30 cents for mass transit.

Though autonomous vehicles have been under intense scrutiny by many, others expect self-driving cars to fundamentally change how we get around. The first step towards driverless taxis might be to give taxi drivers access to technology to make their work easier and more efficient, decreasing accidents with cameras and voice assistants.

Amanda Peterson
Amanda Peterson
Contributor, Enlightened Digital

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