Just ran across this article about Google’s latest creation. It is an electric car that drives itself. The Googlecar has no steering wheel, gas pedal or brake pedal. It only has two buttons, “stop” and “go”. Google’s idea is that the car will be a taxicab-like rideshare, allowing people to hop in and tell the car where to go (OK Google, take me to the airport). You’ll be able to hail a self-driving cab through a smartphone app, much like Uber. Unlike Uber, there won’t be any point in leaving a Driver Rating!
In big cities where parking costs hundreds of dollars a month, self-driving rideshare cabs could really combine the convenience of cabs with the efficiency of buses. You could even put autocab stops at train stations, so that people don’t have to drive themselves to catch a train. This would significantly improve the usability and profitability of rail systems.
While the Googlecar is more of a proof of concept than a usable model, I believe that within our lifetimes automated ridesharing will dominate urban transportation. It makes too much sense. The greatest obstacle to the proliferation of autocabs will be regulatory in nature. Taxicab companies have already lobbied hard for every major city to ban Uber; they’ll fight ten times as hard over Googlecar. Inevitably, some day a Googlecar will get into a wreck. Even if it’s not Googlecar’s fault (after all, they’re supposed to have the reflexes of Spider-man vs Alien vs Predator vs Terminator) this will cause a big controversy and bigger litigation.
Uber wants driverless cars. I guess there’s no need to reinvent the wheel when you’re removing it altogether.