Google Car: It Drives Itself - ABC News
Click on video.
(For entertainment purposes only. But read it anyway.)
They're coming! Google's first robotic, self-driving cars have already been, and are being tested on roads right here in San Francisco's Bay Area.
And they're testing successfully, I might add.
I'm labeling this essay uniquely as "for entertainment purposes only" because it's way too early to speculate what self-driving cars could mean in ten or twenty years, or whenever, for San Francisco's taxi industry, and for taxi industries around the world.
Click on video to watch.
Now, one shouldn't necessarily jump to conclusions that human taxi drivers could become completely replaced someday by self-driving taxis, or even go partially extinct anytime soon.
Or shouldn't we?
In a CNET article published in 2010 titled, "Researchers Use I-Pad To Hail Driverless Taxi" by LyaneYvkoff, it says,
"Imagine never arguing about the most efficient route or mentally debating the merits of tipping a driver whose ineptitude at the wheel almost killed you. Made in Germany (MIG) is an autonomous Volkswagen Passat cab you hail using an iPad app, and it eliminates the most unappealing aspect of taxis: the driver."
At the very least, driverless taxis should begin to raise important questions as to how self driving cars could, in time, begin to impact taxi industries around the world. And now is a better time than later to start considering it, I would think.
Especially if you are a San Francisco taxi driver and you want to make the life-long investment of buying a medallion. With driverless taxis possibly looming in the future, would you be making a reliable investment, or would you just be made a fool?
In the video below is a bit more of a comprehensive overview of Google's self driving technology. (It's almost 10 minutes long.)
Click on video to watch.
The above video says Google is a "long way" from bringing its vehicle to the consumer market. That's good for taxi drivers. It means taxi drivers can hang onto their jobs a while longer.
And, Google says its self driving car is not intended to replace human drivers, but rather, to simply improve driving. Good again. It means cab drivers will still need to be kept around to do things like load and unload luggage/cargo, assist seniors and disabled riders, and clean up vomit.
Because if driverless cars really could one day serve to replace human taxi drivers, the future in San Francisco's taxi industry could look something like this...
The City could either continue to privatize to cab companies, or it would itself own self-driving taxis, just like it owns buses, trollies, cable cars, etc., as a public transit means.
These self driving taxis would be equipped with advanced technology that could identify people on the street trying to hail them. And, they would be equipped with a uniform electronic hailing app too, so people could flag them from far away. (Consider that another valid reason to get rid of cab companies, or at least the big cab companies, since the big companies keep resisting the idea of a uniform, across the board electronic hailing app for passenger to benefit from.)
When the passenger gets in, he or she swipes a "smart card" or in San Francisco's case, a Clipper card, and then speaks their destination to the self driving vehicle. The driverless taxi automatically brings them to their destination, and at the end of the ride charges the amount to their card. The money goes directly into the MTA's revenue fund.
No rude driver refusing their credit card, and no reckless maniac! Just a clean, safe, hassle-free ride that can be prepaid with a card swipe.
Of course, science fiction has already envisioned this scenario long ago. Long ago enough, that Arnold Schwarzenegar was still a Hollywood movie star.
Remember the "Johnny Cab" scene from the movie Total Recall?
Click video to watch.
This stuff all seems pretty far out. But it's definitely possible, and even likely perhaps. But if it's for real, it's still a bit of a ways off. And we don't even know if anything will turn out the way it's planned to.
But if driverless taxis make their debut somewhere in the future, when would that be? In ten years? Twenty years? Sooner?
We won't actually know until we actually know.
But if and when it were to happen, could it affect the medallion system we have today, and the longterm value of the medallions?
Because a medallion's value lies mainly in the ability to lease it to non-medallion drivers. And if a driverless taxi industry were to emerge within say, twenty years, more or less, even if a partial driverless industry were to emerge, it may or may not alter the usefulness and value of today's medallion system.
Good thing this thought is just for entertainment purposes. Because if it wasn't, buying a medallion could be a pretty uncertain investment.