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Sunday, February 28, 2021

The future of taxis is self-driven and electric. Are you ready?

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As electric sales increase worldwide, sustainability-focused Qatar is also jumping on the eco-friendly trend. 

Electric car sales have seen tremendous growth over the past few years. Globally, it’s estimated that over half of new cars sold will be electric by 2040. Locally, we’re seeing Qatar shift towards embracing this electric future.

Earlier this year, Qatar’s transportation ministry announced the deployment of free electric charging ports in the country.  This was revealed just two months after the ministry announced plans to make the 2022 World Cup run on an emission-free system.

Read also: Qatar signs deal to set up its first local electric car factory

Impact on the taxi industry

One sector that is expected to experience a dramatic impact due to the rise of electric cars is the taxi industry. While tech companies are investing millions of dollars into the development of better batteries for their electric vehicles, a significant investment is also being poured into self-driving technology.

Self-driving vehicles are expected to make car rides safer, easier and quicker. But the real value attracting large companies is the creation of a self-driven electric fleet of taxis.

An opportunity arises

On average, ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft give up to 75% of the fare’s price to their drivers. In contrast, a self-driving car would allow these companies to keep 100% of the price to themselves. It also means that they can significantly lower their prices to drive away any competition.

This alluring opportunity has attracted both car and tech companies. We’ve gathered a list of a few companies working on exciting self-driving electric taxi networks. These companies are just a fraction of the total number of companies developing self-driving technology.

Tesla

Source: Tesla

As the largest seller of plug-in electric vehicles, Tesla has a few advantages over its competitors. The company plans to utilise a combination of customers’ vehicles, as well as the company’s own cars, to produce a large fleet of taxis.

This works by allowing Tesla car owners to share their car as part of the Tesla Robotaxi network for a share of the price. This will be lower than what drivers get paid as there’s no work done by the car owner.

Additionally, in countries such as the US, Tesla has a large network of Tesla Superchargers that can be used to keep their vehicles running. If Tesla expands this network to more countries globally, its cars will likely become more appealing to consumers, therefore benefitting its Robotaxi business.

Amazon

Amazon also seems to be heavily invested in electric vehicles. The e-commerce giant made several announcements this year that show the company’s investment in the field. In October, Amazon revealed its first electric van, which is set to make its first deliveries in 2021.

While the Rivian-built vans aren’t self-driven, they’re not Amazon’s only self-driving vehicle.

Zoox, an Amazon-owned self-driving company, recently revealed its first Robotaxi. This comes after over half a decade of R&D done by the company. Zoox’ vehicles offer a clear demonstration of the benefits of self-driving taxis.

The vehicle’s seats face each other to offer a more natural talking experience as opposed to traditional arrangements in other cars. The company’s website emphasises that their cars are “built for rides, not drivers”. 

While the benefits of self-driving taxis are perfectly highlighted by Zoox’s vehicles, the design and slogan also serve as a reminder as to the damage this industry will have on taxi drivers.

Google

The search engine giant is also building its own self-driving taxi service. In fact, it is the only company currently in operation and offerings its services to the general public right now.

Waymo, a Google-owned company, launched its self-driving taxi service in Phoenix this year. This is currently only operating in Phoenix in the US. If the service is successful, it’s expected to quickly spread across the US before sprouting up across the world. 

This puts Google in a prominent position, because unlike other companies which are promising with future claims, Google is delivering on them now.

Traditional car companies

Well-established car companies have also joined the race for developing self-driving taxis. General Motors – the owner of Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac – also owns a majority stake in Cruise. Cruise has begun testing self-driving vehicles in San Francisco with ambitions to expand the technology into more vehicles. 

Volkswagen’s Moia is also developing self-driving electric taxis. The company is also deploying human-driven electric vehicles in Qatar in 2022.

The future

For the past few years, large companies have invested millions of dollars into research and development for self-driving technology. Now that some of their vehicles have been built, the race for a self-driven electric taxi service can finally begin.

Over the next few years, we’ll see more and more electric vehicles hit the road. Some for consumers, but others will be there to replace taxis.

We’re excited to see more innovation in the design of electric vehicles as companies rethink how a self-driving car should look like. Because, well, it may not look like a car at all.


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