Google’s self-driving car and the future of the taxi

Another week, another cutesy PR video, and another one of the Big Four’s moonshot projects gets a little closer to reality. While most articles that were circulating on the reveal of Google’s self-driving car dealt with it’s rather cartoon-like appearance or the multitude of regulations that will need to be negotiated before a concept like this becomes viable, The Irish Times looked at how self-driving cars could revolutionize the taxi industry in big cities.

Detailing a report by Lawrence D. Burns, former VP of R&D at General Motors and now a Google consultant, it was suggested that, if such a project becomes viable, it could reduce the cost of running a taxi service by almost 90%, significantly reducing wait times in the process.

The researchers found that Manhattan’s 13,000 taxis made 470,000 trips a day. Their average speed was between 10 and 11 mph, carrying an average of 1.4 passengers per trip with an average wait time of five minutes.

In comparison, it is possible for a futuristic robot fleet of 9,000 shared automated vehicles hailed by smartphone to match that capacity with a wait time of less than one minute.

Assuming a 15% profit, the current cost of a taxi service is about $4 per trip mile, while in contrast, it was estimated that a Manhattan-based driver-less vehicle fleet would cost about 50 cents per mile.

The fact that Google invested $250m in Uber just last year only makes this a more realistic vision. Imagine a fleet of 9,000 Uber / Google self-driving cars whizzing up and down New York’s streets ferrying people around for next to nothing. It’s all very ‘Minority Report‘, but I like it!

Posted by Rob in Google, Tech, Uber