Study says autonomous taxis will cost users more than car ownership

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When Sir Thomas More coined the term “utopia,” he lifted two words from Ancient Greek that roughly translate into “not a place.” Turns out people from the 16th century still understood satire, perhaps better than we do today. After all, we are the ones operating under the assumption that we can remap society in order to build consequence-free transportation network without a shred of humor to keep us grounded.

We may not need satire in this instance, however. A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health asks questions about how just effectively the shift to autonomy will benefit society as a whole. Industry leaders have broadly framed the shift toward self-driving as kicking down the door to an idyllic universe where no one wants for transportation, with autonomous taxis serving as the first wave of this planned paradise. The reality may be vastly different that what’s being sold, however.

The study essentially asserts that the entire concept of robotic cabs doesn’t actually serve poor communities any better than just buying one’s own automobile. Researchers compared the costs of a robo-taxi trip with those of owning a conventional used vehicle in an urban environment. Tabulating the combined costs of vehicle financing, licensing, insurance, routine maintenance, fuel/electricity and everything else they could account for, the team estimated that self-driving taxis would cost a minimum of $1.58 per mile. By contrast, the total cost associated with traditional vehicle ownership (assuming one is trying to be thrifty) ended up being 52 cents per mile. At least, that was the case for their model in San Francisco.

While your author has long suspected that unsupervised robotic taxis might outpace the subway as one of the dirtiest ways to get around (and become potential liabilities for whoever operates them), the general assumption has been that they’ll offer societal and health benefits that vastly outperform private vehicle ownership — almost as if the people making these assessments have never taken a regular cab or piloted an inner-city ZipCar. Other presumed benefits involve improved air quality by making it easier for people to get by without an automobile of their own.

But this thinking comes with some problems. Studies have already shown that ride-hailing firms exacerbate congestion by having a fleet of cars constantly scouring the streets in search of fares. That interim period between riders wastes energy and will be broadly similar when/if autonomous vehicles arrive. Why should we believe they’ll be any different when they’ll be similarly competing for riders and milling around neighborhoods? Even if they’re entirely electric, that energy has to be sourced from somewhere, and much of it will be in service of nothing.

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Who will own the cars that drive themselves?

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Self-driving Uber vehicles in a lot in Pittsburgh. One vision of the future sees fleets of cars hailed as people need a lift and less private vehicle ownership.

 Fleets of vehicles roaming streets waiting to be hailed are more efficient. But the coronavirus has made people think twice about the future of car ownership even when autonomous tech arrives.

It was a difficult question even before the coronavirus pandemic hit: When self-driving cars eventually rule the roads, will Americans own their cars or make use of ride-hailing fleets?

The challenge is now threefold. Self-driving car technology had already reached a plateau, and getting to full Level 5 autonomy will be more difficult than many had thought. With the nation’s economy hobbled by the virus, investment is slowing. And to car owners, their private automobile is now a sanctuary, and it’s unclear how long that attitude will persist.

A CarGurus.com poll of 400 active car shoppers, conducted in May for this article, asked, “What is your overall opinion about the development of self-driving cars?” It showed 22 percent of customers were excited by the prospect. A survey of auto owners in 2019 showed 31 percent of them were excited for autonomous cars.

The question about the long-term future for the world’s cars is far from settled, and the experts (some of whom see disaster for the planet if people own autonomous cars as we own our cars now) differ sharply in their perception of where we’re heading.

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73 mind-blowing implications of driverless cars and trucks

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I originally wrote and published a version of this article in September 2016. Since then, quite a bit has happened, further cementing my view that these changes are coming and that the implications will be even more substantial. I decided it was time to update this article with some additional ideas and a few changes.

As I write this, Uber just announced that it just ordered 24,000 self-driving Volvos. Tesla just released an electric, long-haul tractor trailer with extraordinary technical specs (range, performance) and self-driving capabilities (UPS just preordered 125!). And, Tesla just announced what will probably be the quickest production car ever made — perhaps the fastest. It will go zero to sixty in about the time it takes you to read zero to sixty. And, of course, it will be able to drive itself. The future is quickly becoming now. Google just ordered thousands of Chryslers for its self-driving fleet (that are already on the roads in AZ).

In September of 2016, Uber had just rolled out its first self-driving taxis in Pittsburgh, Tesla and Mercedes were rolling out limited self-driving capabilities and cities around the world were negotiating with companies who want to bring self-driving cars and trucks to their cities. Since then, all of the major car companies have announced significant steps towards mostly or entirely electric vehicles, more investments have been made in autonomous vehicles, driverless trucks now seem to be leading rather than following in terms of the first large scale implementations and there’ve been a few more incidents (i.e. accidents).

I believe that the timeframe for significant adoption of this technology has shrunk in the past year as technology has gotten better faster and as the trucking industry has increased its level of interest and investment.

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Cars will change more in the next decade than they have in the past century

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While the look and feel of our cars has changed in the past 100 years, the way we drive them hasn’t. But fundamental change is coming. In the next decade, not only will the way they’re powered and wired have shifted dramatically, but we won’t be the ones driving them anymore.

Some cars already have basic automation features, but the automotive experiments currently being undertaken by the likes of Uber and Google make up a minuscule proportion of the vehicles on our roads. By 2030, the standard car will evolve from merely assisting the driver to taking full control of all aspects of driving in most driving conditions.

This widespread automation, together with the electrification and increased connectivity of both the car and society, are set to shake up the car industry in a big way, affecting everything from the way cars look and feel, to how we spend our time inside them, and how they get us from A to B.

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Despite Uber and Lyft, urban car ownership is growing

Travelers are stuck in a traffic jam as people hit the road before the busy Thanksgiving Day weekend in Chicago, Illinois

In a Reversal, ‘Car-Rich’ Households Are Growing

Despite ride-hailing’s promise, vehicle ownership (and traffic) is on the rise in America’s biggest, most transit-oriented cities. So how is mobility really changing?

There is no doubt that ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are remaking how people get around major American cities. The growing availability of shared bikes, e-bikes, and e-scooters is further changing the personal mobility story. The transformation is partly personal, offering a wealth of options for getting around town. It’s also supposed to be societal, ameliorating clogged traffic and boosting transit ridership.

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Why you have (probably) already bought your last car

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Driverless taxis – the transport of the future?

I’m guessing you are scoffing in disbelief at the very suggestion of this article, but bear with me.

A growing number of tech analysts are predicting that in less than 20 years we’ll all have stopped owning cars, and, what’s more, the internal combustion engine will have been consigned to the dustbin of history.

Yes, it’s a big claim and you are right to be sceptical, but the argument that a unique convergence of new technology is poised to revolutionise personal transportation is more persuasive than you might think.

The central idea is pretty simple: Self-driving electric vehicles organised into an Uber-style network will be able to offer such cheap transport that you’ll very quickly – we’re talking perhaps a decade – decide you don’t need a car any more.

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10 surprising ways driverless cars will change the world

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When you think about the amount of time we spend behind the wheel today, whether in congestion or helping friends and family getting to and forth, being able to spend this time on other activities whilst on the move opens up a whole host of possibilities.

But not only will we have more free time, driverless cars also promise to make our roads safer and make our journeys faster.

Driverless cars are set to arrive on UK roads by 2021 according to the government and are predicted to change the face of personal mobility forever. Looking past the obvious benefits, Select Car Leasing have looked into the less predictable consequences of driverless cars.

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Who’s really going to own autonomous cars?

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Two mega trends are coming together: The Collaborative Economy and the Autonomous World, which means shared mobility from self-driving cars.

Early this year, we published a research report on the Business Models of Self-Driving Cars, and we’ve presented our findings at a number of industry events. A commonly asked question is: “In the future, will we even own cars?” I want to share a few scenarios that are likely to emerge.

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Self-Driving Cars Will Transform the World as We Know It—Including Where We Live

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The revolution is coming—and it’s driving itself.

As autonomous cars make their autobahn-paced transition from fanciful, emerging technology to mainstream reality, they’re expected to leave a forever-altered world in their rear-view mirrors. And it isn’t just highways and commutes that will be transformed—it’s also the homes and towns where we choose to live.

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Using only Uber or Lyft is cheaper than owning a car for 25% of Americans — here’s how to know if you apply

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Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft free up millions of Americans from having to own a car to get around. An analysis of the all-in costs of car ownership show that ridesharing alone could be more cost-effective in the long run.

The future will most likely be a mix of both ridesharing and ownership, since people still derive great value from having their own car.

Continue reading… “Using only Uber or Lyft is cheaper than owning a car for 25% of Americans — here’s how to know if you apply”