The current state of technology has allowed us to create some very efficient and innovative products globally – especially concerning mobility – of which a lot were only considered possible in a sci-fi movie a few years ago. We’re on the eve of what might be the most progressive change in automotive and mobility history: autonomous driving. With a lot of big car manufacturers such as Tesla, Ford, and Volvo experimenting with autonomous technology on cars from their fleet, there is a great chance that this is where the future of cars – and mobility – lies. This could mean that a few years from now, your SIXT rental car and SIXT ride chauffeur might be actual self-driving machines! For some, this might sound very frightening, whereas, for others, this might be the ultimate kick. We dig deeper into the advantages and disadvantages of this phenomenon, so you can come to your own judgment.
Personal Contact vs. Functional Impact
“Taxi, follow that car!” is arguably one of the most famous catchphrases that originated from movies and has been used in various persiflages. In these situations, the character saying this is most often in pursuit of someone that narrowly escaped in a car. The driver of the aforementioned taxi nods accordingly and puts the ‘pedal to the metal’. What would this scenario look like in a few years? The biggest change that the switch to autonomous technology will bring is the loss of personal contact between driver and passenger. Having a small (sometimes therapeutic) chit-chat, trying to get some insider information on local sights to see and bars to go, or the simple feeling of not being alone in a car might be something from the past. Maybe we’ll speak or type our orders into a board computer.
Further Considerations: Less Personal, More in Control
However, this does not necessarily have to be a bad thing. Instead, the way recent developments look now, your taxi or ride will serve rather functionally, leaving the passenger to ‘have more time for other things’. According to car manufacturers such as General Motors, technology will be so advanced by then, that you can sit in the front or back seat of the car and simply enjoy the surroundings of the city you just landed in. The absence of a driver will also leave you more in control during the ride. This means that you can change the radio station and adjust the volume as you want, without having to ask anyone!
Human Eye Meets the Bionic Eye
With eyes on safety, autonomous vehicles can be beneficial, too. Autonomous cars will be equipped with onboard computers that can calculate all the important measurements such as stopping distance, safe driving distance, and acceleration data. They are expected to take over the complete driving experience in which human error might occur due to various factors, such as distractedness or tiredness. Car manufacturers believe this could drastically reduce road accidents on a yearly base.
Recent Experiments in Japan
Currently, there are numerous ongoing experiments with autonomous driving on public roads and highways. They use state-of-the-art technology, such as radars, sensors, and cameras on and around the taxi. In August of this year, a manufacturer of autonomous driving technology, called ZMP, successfully completed a testing session with a Japanese taxi company of hauling paid customers in Tokyo. They used Toyota minivans for their services. This caught the attention of Toyota, who is willing to invest in this venture. With this testing, the goal is set to continuously develop the technology and have autonomous taxis ready by 2020 to serve as transportation for athletes during the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Recent Experiments in France
The French have also successfully produced their first, fully-operational autonomous chauffeured service in France, called the NAVYA Autonom Cab. It’s an electric vehicle that accommodates up to 6 passengers and has a top speed of 90 km/h (55 mph). It uses 10 sensors placed everywhere on and around the vehicle and GPS to go about the streets safely. Apart from autonomous chauffeuring, the Autonom Cab was designed to pay more attention to car sharing as well. This reduces the road population and is predicted to drastically lower the number of accidents made by human error. You can easily book your ride with a smartphone application, check schedules of Autonom cabs already on their way, or simply enter your details, and there will be one available before you know it. Opening and closing the doors, starting the vehicle, and even choosing your radio station all goes through the app.
(image by Gnangarra: All rights reserved)
Further Considerations: Wait and See
In these early stages of autonomous driving, the ‘bionic eye’ cannot foresee all just yet, as accidents are still reported globally. The technology is under constant development to get it to the point where it needs to be. As it stands, the human eye is still required for surveillance in the autonomous matter. On a personal level, there are many things we can take into account to make sure everything is being handled. However, manufacturers ensure our future technology will leave no room for failures.
A Traditional Profession: Not So Traditional Anymore
If autonomous chauffeuring is the future, it would essentially mean the loss of a decades-old profession. Since human drivers aren’t needed in an automated world, there’s a great chance it’ll cost a lot of jobs. This is especially the case when it comes to taxis, limousine chauffeurs, and concierge services. On a financial level, this could mean high unemployment on a global scale. This is especially the case in metropoles where everything runs and is dependent on the services of taxi drivers. The comforting and welcoming aspect of a physical driver might also be the main reason some choose this service.
Further Considerations: Not Likely We’ll Lose The Human Touch
However, this does not necessarily mean the human aspect will be completely erased from the whole experience. Especially in cases of classic chauffeured services or limousine services. It’s likely that the customer will still be welcomed by a host, who holds the doors for the passengers and makes sure the passengers’ needs are fulfilled by providing service before the ride gets started. There are many other external ways the ex-driver can still come in handy in the era of autonomous taxis and chauffeuring.
Investing in Machines Vs. Investing in Experience
Obviously, with autonomous chauffeured services come autonomous systems and gadgets that power them. Manufacturers will invest in making these systems as up to date as possible to resemble the human level of performance. From there, we as customers must adapt. This will make us rely completely on the car’s GPS and cameras instead of a driver’s hard-earned years of experience in the respective city. And obviously, the machines do not have the same inside information and knowledge to recommend a really attractive local pub or restaurant, as an actual person would. However, there’s always the possibility of receiving insider information from locals on various websites, or even on the spot!
A Change is Coming
These are just a few comparisons among others. It’s safe to say that with autonomous cars playing a more significant role on public roads, autonomous chauffeured services will become a greater deal, too. And that is absolutely not a bad thing. Pitting the pros and cons against each other shows the benefits of both the classic and progressive way of chauffeuring. Now it’s up to you to decide: Do you prefer good ol’ Mr. Pennyworth to chauffeur you from A to B while having a nice chat? Or would you allow a futuristic take on Knight Rider’s “K.I.T.T.“ to safely drive you to your destination?