I have recently posted about autonomous vehicles replacing the long haul trucker and on the farm. The next place I see autonomous vehicles making a disruptive change will be in big city taxis. In 2014 there were over 51,000 licensed taxi drivers in New York City and just under 14,000 licensed cabs, each driving an average of 180 miles per shift. Over half of these cabs are hybrid vehicles.
The taxi industry is currently under attack by companies like Uber, which provides a trust-based TaaS (Transportation as a Service). If you want a ride in a city where Uber operates, use your Uber app and call for a ride. A nearby Uber driver can drive to your location and take you to your destination. Since the drivers rate the passengers and vice versa, each builds up a trust score, enabling each party to determine if they want to deal with the other before actually agreeing on the ride.
But autonomous vehicles will be a greater disruption to the taxi industry. Let’s fast-forward ten years and see what it will be like to get a cab in New York City.
Using your cab-app, which works almost everywhere in the world, you indicate the number of people, your destination, accessibility requirements, and whether you have a lot of luggage. In most hotels and major transportation hubs like airports, train stations, and bus terminals there will be kiosks that provide the same “call” service. You will get a receipt, printed by the kiosk or an image on your smart phone, that indicates where and when to meet the cab along with the cab number.
Based on what you asked for, you will get an appropriately sized vehicle up to as large as a 24-passenger van, with wheel chair accessibility, baby car seats, and luggage space as requested. Based on the destination, you will likely get an electric vehicle. The “standard” cab will be a small electric car with two seats and a space behind the seats for luggage. Simply scan your receipt at the cab door to unlock the cab.
On my first business trip to Mexico I noted that the taxi drivers in Mexico City were just like those in New York City: they drove crazily and didn’t speak English. Your autonomous cab “driver,” a disembodied voice, will speak and understand over 100 languages. Based on your desires, the driver can provide site-seeing information as it takes you to your destination, music of your choice, news updates, conversation on a topic of your choice, or blissful silence.
The cab system will be integrated into the public transportation system, providing the “last mile” connections to where you live or work. Your cab receipt could include your “ticket” for public transportation, with another cab waiting at the end of the subway or bus ride to take you to your destination.
Since they carry no money, these cabs cannot be robbed, nor can they be hijacked. The cab can only be accessed by someone with a receipt for that particular cab. Because they are linked through the Cloud and using GPS, the cab operating company always knows where all of their cabs are. The company can instantly, and probably automatically, react to changing load demands, putting more cars on the streets or bringing some home. The cabs themselves will automatically come “home” if they need to be recharged. It can go into any neighborhood, providing balanced coverage over the different areas of a city. As a rider, you know the driver is not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or being distracted by texting or personal issues. One hot summer lunchtime, I took a cab in New York City. Every time the driver saw a pretty lady, he stuck his whole head out the window and said “Hi, beautiful!” There are a lot of pretty ladies in New York City. Somehow he got me safely to my destination.
These autonomous cabs provide an inexpensive, reliable way for people without cars to get to work, school, or health care facilities. I was a little surprised at a Pew Research Center report that smartphone dependency “is up sharply nationwide, particularly among lower-income households and those with fewer years of education.” Especially for those without broadband in their home, the smartphone is their only connection to online resources. Considering the importance of the Internet in finding a job and doing almost anything else today, I would hope that organizations, public and private, who are trying to help the unemployed or underemployed would consider providing a low cost smart phone plan for each client.
Of course it also provides the government the ability to see where you have gone. Our privacy laws need to be updated to account for all of the new and emerging technologies, from E-ZPass to RFID enabled credit cards to automated public transportation.
In this same ten-year timeframe, I also expect to see a sharp decline in car ownership or leasing in major cities. Autonomous cabs make intra-city transportation convenient and flexible, and eliminate the need to find parking spaces. It can take days for the city to clear all the minor streets in a city after a major storm. With significantly fewer personal vehicles in the city, it will be easier for the city to get the streets clear and maintain the roads.
The autonomous cab companies will also offer special weekend or longer rates, and will probably partner with major car rental companies to provide one shop service for everything from pickup for the weekend move to a large drive-yourself vehicle for that two week vacation to the mountains.
By that time, we will have companies providing complete Transportation as a Service (TaaS).
Like everything else in the Cloud, TaaS provides economies of scale for the large providing companies, and less expense for individuals and small companies as the TaaS providers take over every aspect of maintaining vehicles. I also expect many government agencies at all levels will opt-out of the expense of owning their own vehicles.
The last word:
Five years ago you were probably surprised when a perspective employer asked permission to check out your credit report as part of the employment process. Companies believed that your credit report might give them some different perspective into their risk of hiring you. This trend is dropping due to the Fair Credit Reporting Act restrictions on what they can actually see in a credit report. For example, a hiring company cannot see your credit score, and they can’t force you to provide permission to access it, although there is no way to determine what will happen to your application if you don’t. Ten states have outright bans or severe limits the ability of a perspective employer to access your credit report.
However, the next time you apply for a job, don’t be surprised if you are asked to provide access to your trust report. Today if you buy or sell things on Amazon, use Uber or any other trust-based Cloud service, you are creating a trust score within that company. Expect that within a few years there will be Trust Reporting companies like the current big-three credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion). These companies will combine the trust information from all of the organizations you deal with and create your personal Trust Score.
If you think it is tough to get rid of an inaccurate entry in your credit report, imagine the experience of dealing with one in your trust report.
Keep your sense of humor.