Worldwide Network Of Self-Driving Taxis
Google and Uber might compete to create a network of self-driving taxis that can be hailed via smartphone software, rumours suggest.
Google has been developing self-driving cars for some time. Its Project Director, Chris Urmson, said at the Detroit Auto Show: “We’re thinking a lot about how in the long term this might become useful in people’s lives”, (and) “one is in the direction of the shared vehicle. The technology would be such that you can call up the vehicle and tell it where to go and then have it take you there.”
In contrast, Uber runs a driver operated taxi service in fifty-four countries including the: United States of America, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Russia, France, Ireland, The Netherlands and Singapore.
Its smartphone application enables the passenger to choose the pick-up location and destination, then – once collected by the taxi driver – digitally view the route and an estimated time of arrival.
Uber hopes to minimise its future overheads by replacing drivers with autonomous cars. Savings could be passed onto its passengers.
Until recently, it was thought that Google – an early and prolific investor in the revolutionary taxi firm – would provide the technology required to make this concept a reality. It still might.
But Uber recently confirmed via its blog that it has formed a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University to create the Uber Advanced Technologies Center (in Pittsburgh). It will “focus on the development of key long term technologies that advance Uber’s mission of bringing safe, reliable, transportation to everyone”.
The Centre's research and development will primarily be “in the areas of mapping and vehicle safety and autonomy technology”.
Verge.com reported that Uber Chief Executive Officer, Travis Kalanick, said: "The reason Uber could be expensive is because you're not just paying for the car — you're paying for the other dude in the car". He added: "When there's no other dude in the car, the cost of taking an Uber anywhere becomes cheaper than owning a car”.
This suggests he would like the taxi service to become so cost effective that motorists sell their private vehicles. For some people – and it is tricky to say what percentage - the cost of frequently riding in a self-driving taxi might be less than that of buying a car then insuring, taxing, maintaining and repairing it.
Mr Kalanick concluded: “You basically bring the cost below the cost of ownership for everybody, and then car ownership goes away."