A long running theme of mine is that we can’t have nice new things because the people who supply us with the old ones won’t allow the competition. We’ve left too much regulatory power in the hands of the incumbents in many businesses. My current poster child for this argument is Uber: they’ve had to spend a year just to get permission to offer a smartphone app to hail a cab. Quite seriously part of one court case to refuse them access to the market was that older people are less likely to have a smartphone and therefore this was age discrimination.
Which leads me on to the subject of Google‘s driverless cars. Over at Grist there’s an article about how the world might look if as and when the technology becomes widely deployed:
Now imagine a mash-up of this popular model and Google’s self-driving car technology. The car-sharing fleet could be retrofitted with self-driving navigation systems. (Let’s call the hypothetical startup company “Car2Google.” Of course, other car-sharing services like Zipcar or even traditional rental car companies could jump into the game.) Layering self-driving technology onto this system would allow people to order a car from a fleet and have the car pick them up. It’s a taxi service without the drivers.
Users would summon a car with their phone and wait comfortably indoors. The car would call or text them as it approaches. Users would then hop in, talk on the phone, or nap while the car drives to their destination. Once there, they can just walk away. The service charges their credit card an amount based on the time or length of the trip.
This entirely destroys the taxi business of course. Or at least it entirely destroys the business of driving a taxi. For if the streets are full of cars without drivers that can be hired by the minute or the hour or the trip, then what need is there for anyone to actually be driving such a vehicle?
Actually, I think it’ll be rather fun to see how this goes. From the Uber case we do know that the taxi industry is powerful, even if not all powerful. So I’m absolutely certain that we’ll see attempts to make sure that such driverless cars cannot just be allowed to replace taxis. The interest will come from the arguments that are used to attempt to prevent the adoption of the technology.
I could imagine someone arguing that even though the car can drive itself there must still be a driver. You know, just in case. I can also imagine the taxi companies arguing that all such cars should have to have a taxi shield: but that there should be no increase in the issuance of shields at all. thus the driverless cars would all have to belong to the people who own the taxi shields. Or rather, private owners can have driverless cars but those available for public rental must have a shield.
That would of course be immensely profitable for the current owners of the shields. We can imagine higher demand for such rides, but they’d obviously be paying lower costs (no drivers!). So that’s definitely an argument I expect to see at some point in the next few years. That driverless cars for hire must have a taxi licence.
Anyone think of any other ways the current taxi industry will try to fight back against being wiped out?
Source : Forbes