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November 1, 2018updated 05 Nov 2018 12:47pm

Need a ride? Call a self-driving taxi

By GlobalData Technology

Self-driving taxi’s will be here before you know it; are you ready to hail an autonomous cab?

Soon, if you need a ride to the airport or just around town, you’ll have another decision to make.  Do you hop in a cab? Request an Uber?  Or perhaps….you take a self-driving taxi.

What just a few years ago seemed like futuristic technology right out of a sci-fi movie will be here before you know it.

Ford became the latest large auto manufacturer to unveil its plans for autonomous driving services.

Last week, the company revealed that it will start offering commercial self-driving taxis and delivery services in Washington, D.C. and other yet to be named cities by as early as 2021 – a mere 3 years away.  Testing is slated to begin next year.

Most manufacturers developing the technology

Numerous car manufacturers, including Daimler, BMW, GM, and Tesla, have been investing in autonomous vehicles.  But for the general public, the AI-driven technology was more of a futuristic vision – possibly within the reach of a select few able to afford a car equipped with the latest and greatest, but out of range for the average person.

But that is all about to change.  With shared vehicle strategies such as taxi services being announced regularly, the prospect of utilising an AI-powered car is becoming a greater reality for many of us.

Soon, self-driving options will be available to the general public, at least the general public that resides in major metro areas.

Plans for shared, self-driving vehicle services have been making headlines. At the end of 2017 GM announced it would begin offering self-driving taxis in 2019.

Ford also expects to begin testing next year.

Alphabet’s Waymo already has an Early Rider program in place in Tempe, Arizona, offering free rides around town in its minivans.  Waymo plans a commercial launch by the end of this year.  Russia’s Yandex is testing self- driving taxis in the small town of Innopolis.  Autonomous driving technology company, ZMP, and taxi company, Hinomaru Kotsu, have launched paid AI-driven taxi services in Tokyo.

And, Daimler has plans to launch a self-driving shuttle in the US, and received a license to test autonomous driving in Beijing.

Safety concerns are not deterring efforts

Public perception of the safety of autonomous vehicles took a hit earlier this year when a self-driving Uber car struck and killed a pedestrian.

The incident led many to recall that in 2016 a passenger in an autonomous Tesla car was killed.  At the moment, regulations require that a back-up driver is in an autonomous vehicle, meaning that providers of the services still need to pay wages to an actual human being, impacting potential profits generated by the service.

But who knows how long that will last.  Imagine arriving in a new city and looking for a ride to your hotel.

No more worrying that the cab driver is taking you for a ride.  But what about Uber?  Will you miss chatting with your Uber driver? Will you miss the local restaurant recommendations you usually receive?  Welcome to a world without small talk.

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