toyota

I once wrote how the future of driverless cars won’t be one in every home, but one replacing taxis and other car services. Imagine a future where these cars are optimally located around every corner; enough units to match demand, and easily deployable where mismatches occur.

Singapore is the first to take a step into that future in 2015, when they will pilot driverless cars on the road in one of its busiest neighborhoods.

Driverless taxis make a lot of sense for this densely packed city-state. Singapore has long discouraged its citizens to buy cars. A Toyota Corolla that costs $23 thousand in the US, for example, would cost a stunning $136 thousand in Singapore (source). Even then, cars are only allowed to be on the road for 10 years, after which they are scrapped unless you pay another exorbitant tax.

Singapore wants its citizens to use public transport as much as possible and keep congestion out of roads. This is a city-state where a mobile app used to easily hail taxis existed long before Uber became popular.

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We wrote before how the future of driverless cars won’t be Toyota but Uber.  We hypothesized that car manufacturers won’t risk putting their brand behind such a project, and that you wouldn’t be able to walk into a car dealership in the next 7 years to buy one.  Instead, the future of driverless cars will be in services like Uber, where consumers don’t own the car but pay to ride it.

This excellent article from Reuters, chock full of insider reporting, supports all those hypotheses.

Car manufacturers won’t risk their brands:

Car companies, all too familiar with the devastating financial and brand damage of recalls, would see any hiccups with the self-driving car as a threat to their main business.

“We’re not going to put our name on a project like that because if something goes wrong, we have a lot more to lose.”  – Guy from major car manufacturer

It’ll be years before you can buy a driverless car from a dealership:

Some in the industry predict fully automated cars will be available as soon as 2020, though research firm IHS Automotive does not expect the cars to be widely available until 2035.

To start, driverless cars won’t be purchased but used on-demand:

Google co-founder Sergey Brin has described self-driving cars as an on-demand service that consumers summon when needed. That would represent a seismic shift from a longstanding model based on individual ownership.

Ahhh.  It does feel good to be right.  🙂

A couple days ago, at the Code conference, Google unveiled its start-from-scratch take on the driverless car.

It’s marvelous!

For many of us, a future of driverless cars will occur in our lifetime.  This charge won’t be led by traditional car manufacturers like Toyota.  Oh, they will be there eventually, but I predict it will be transportation services like Uber who will bring Google’s technology to the mainstream.

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