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FULL ARTICLE | EDITORIAL 
Uber and Volvo self-driving taxi joint-venture 
Peter Schmidt | Editor

Published: Fri, 19th August 2016 14:42:19 GMT
 

Volvo XC90 Uber self-driving taxi


Open quote signThe clock just keeps ticking. We must prepare for the future, remembering that soon the future will be the present. Accordingly, we’ve got a choice. We can respond in line with what we think lies ahead or do nothing and wait twiddling thumbs until the future becomes the presence. 

If there is one trend that most prognosticators agree on, urbanisation the world over is in full swing. 

Today, more than half of the world’s population already lives and works in cities. 

Say in a couple of decades from now, that proportion is likely to rise to two thirds. 

By contrast the rural population will continue to shrink. 

Around the world, city planners are hounding the private car, effectively encouraging car-less cities. 

That’s urban planning for people, not vehicles. 

As is already the case today, public transport systems will convey city dwellers within city limits. 

Accordingly, the significance of taxis will, due in part to a growing elderly population, continue to grow in line with urbanisation. 

Uber, describing itself already as the world’s leading ride-sharing company, evidently sees it the same way. 

Add to that yet another trend that today most automotive visionaries agree on, autonomous cars, and what you’ve got is a scene perhaps familiar to many science-fiction aficionados. 

A 2030 megacity buzzing chiefly with state of the art public transport and countless driverless taxis. In effect, those who believe they see the future, see the near perfect coming together of three trends. 

Firstly, a mushrooming urban population. 

Second and third, there’s the aspect of autonomous driving and electric propulsion.

A rare event these days, some visionaries truly believe there’s also a genuine business case. 

Today, at least here in the UK, there is already a shortage of both van and truck delivery drivers. 

Now, more often than not, that’s for a daytime job, at least for delivery van drivers, if not for long-distance truckers. 

Who, given a choice wants to sit behind a steering wheel during the very small hours? 

And yet, night-time work is part of the taxi business. 

The same goes for public holidays. 

Come in autonomous taxis.

Apart from some autonomous features in private cars, which are already in some volume produced cars like Audi’s Q7 today, likelihood is that a full autonomous vehicle will be a god’s gift for both the taxi trade and their customers. 

Round the clock working without minute by minute smartphone interruptions, no tea break, no unwanted exchange of political views, and a great deal more. 

And that 24/7 for 365 days a year. 

Likelihood is that even the refuelling can be done automatically. If it weren’t for the safety aspect, “44t juggernaut runs out of control and kills……”, there is also a business case for driverless fully autonomous long-distance trucks. 

Back to the taxi business. 

Yesterday, both Volvo Cars and Uber joined forces in the development of autonomous driverless taxis. 

Surprising, given the significance of the taxi business to Mercedes, that Daimler didn’t think of that first. 

Now, unlike its earlier ill-fated merger with Chrysler, surely, such a joint venture with a leading and growth destined global taxi operator like Uber, holds all the promise of evolving into a genuine marriage in heaven. 

As it turns out, Volvo fell to its knees and proposed. 

But then again, given the legendary safety of Volvo’s cars, there’s probably no better car to be in when “driverless autonomous taxi runs out of control”
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