Emerging driverless ride-sharing technologies now in development will radically transform the transportation industry. Tesla has made giant strides in self-driving cars in recent years, showing that the concept is viable. These technologies will provide even lower fares and the futuristic sight of driverless cockpits. But what these technologies won’t change is the need for fuel: EV charging stations will still be a necessity to keep these cars on the road.
Uber self-driving cars are coming: The company has an entire corporate division devoted to this: the Advanced Technologies Group. And it’s not the only one. Driverless ride-sharing is increasingly viewed as the salvation of an industry in deep financial trouble. And EV Connect will be there every step of the way, helping to power the latest technological developments.
An Industry in Upheaval
In just a few short years, Uber and other ride-sharing companies have devastated the old taxicab business model. Taxi companies still exist, but they are more expensive, less convenient, and less chic than modern ride-sharing.
However, it’s no secret that Uber is also hemorrhaging money. The company has never turned a profit and doesn’t seem likely to in the foreseeable future. Uber’s biggest competitor, Lyft, is in a similar boat.
This is the motivation behind the development of Uber self-driving cars in particular and driverless ride-sharing in general. The single biggest expense on these companies’ budget sheets is driver pay. This is a big problem: Uber and its competitors always pay their workers as little as possible. Traditional taxi companies typically pay their workers much better, including benefits and job security that rideshare drivers have no access to. While a savvy rideshare driver can make more money on a really good shift, this is the exception rather than the rule. Most drivers barely scrape by, and some actually lose money after figuring in their expenses.
In other words, there’s no room to cut pay any further. The market rate for rideshare drivers is higher than the rideshare business model might be able to sustain. Hence the push to get those Uber self-driving cars into service. Ride-sharing autonomous vehicles will let these companies cut labor costs substantially.
Driverless Vehicles Will Offer a High Level of Safety
Can driverless ride-sharing really fix the business model?
The technological answer is a simple, resounding, “Yes.” It turns out that not only can modern computer artificial intelligence (AI) handle the complex work of driving a car, but they will someday be able to do it far more safely than human drivers. Humans aren’t actually that good at driving: Roughly 35,000 people die in auto wrecks in America each year. This is enough to make it one of the leading causes of death, especially among younger people.
Self-driving vehicle AI, on the other hand, might not be perfect—and Uber self-driving cars already have fatalities under their belt—but the AI error rate is much lower than the human one.
Together with the financial savings of not using human drivers, this makes ride-sharing autonomous vehicles inevitable. The day will come when car insurance rates and claims for AI-driven cars will be significantly lower than those for human-driven ones.
However, there is another piece to the puzzle: public trust.
A Shift in Public Opinion Is Needed
One of the biggest hurdles facing Uber self-driving cars and other ride-sharing autonomous vehicles from catching on isn’t the technology or the regulatory environment. It’s the public trust. Many people just don’t trust self-driving cars.
For one thing, it’s hard for many people to imagine an AI driving a vehicle safely. There’s nothing in our society today for people to compare it to. Intuitively, driving a car seems incredibly complex and sophisticated, with lots of corner cases that require judgment and experience. This is far beyond what many people believe an AI is capable of doing.
For another thing, it’s a known human bias that people are much more comfortable taking voluntary risks compared to involuntary ones. Getting into a car with a human Uber driver is something that most people think of as a voluntary risk: They feel like they have more control over that situation. But getting into an Uber self-driving car feels, to many people, like something out of their control: They believe the AI will do whatever it wants. And their confidence in the AI isn’t high, because our pop culture is full of stories of AI getting it wrong.
This means public opinion is going to have to shift before driverless ride-sharing becomes more than a niche segment of the ride-sharing market.
Building Confidence Will Be Easier Than It Might Seem
To change public opinion and build confidence in Uber self-driving vehicles and other ride-sharing autonomous vehicles generally, the keys are exposure and normalization. People’s resistance to technological innovations has historically been overcome by simply introducing these new machines and technologies into society so that people can see them in action.
What this means is that once self-driving cars are up to the challenge technologically, companies like Uber and Lyft need only begin offering them alongside human-piloted rides. They’ll begin appearing on the streets of our cities, and people will see with their own eyes that the technology is safe. Driverless ride-sharing is the way of the future.
If Uber can survive, the day will come when Uber self-driving cars become an iconic part of the company’s brand and image: futuristic, private, affordable, and just plain cool. Human-driven rideshares will continue to exist alongside them, but, over the long-term, the human version is likely to become a luxury niche.
Discover What EV Connect Can Do For You
However, to make all this happen, charging infrastructure will need to be brought up to speed to keep driverless electric vehicles on the road. At EV Connect, we offer cutting-edge network charging solutions and cloud services that let fleet owners network their EV charging stations easily and efficiently. In our blog, we like to connect the dots between current topics in the electric vehicle industry, like Uber self-driving cars, with our services.
Uber and other ride-sharing companies are committed to increasing their percentage of electric vehicles. However, to do it they need more and better access to EV charging stations. This is a chicken-and-egg problem: People won’t buy EVs unless they feel confident that a charging station will always be nearby, but businesses won’t install EV charging stations until more people buy EVs.
If you’re a business owner, fleet manager, or municipal government, it might actually be a better financial prospect than you realize to make the investment in EV charging stations now. There are many government-funding financial incentives available that can help you recoup the costs of purchasing and installing the equipment.
We also offer you a free consultation to help you understand how installing EV chargers can improve ROI on your parking lots, attract better-educated and more affluent employees, customers, and tenants, and help foster a culture of EV adoption that leads to more electric vehicles on the road. Our solutions offer powerful customization and private label options, as well as a driver app to connect your drivers to the nearest charging stations.
Contact us today to learn more!