The Taxi of Tomorrow

The Taxi of Tomorrow

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I, for one, hate owning cars. They are a pain in the *****. If anyone talks about the freedom of driving, they haven’t really considered what it takes away.

Depreciation. Insurance. Fuel. Cleaning. Maintenance and servicing. A tiny scratch, bump or scrape costing a fortune to fix. Paying for parking at home and away. And there is the huge amount of time driving takes away from you doing useful things, not to mention the time it takes to earn the money to pay for all this.

There are those who would argue that the motor car is actually freeing the world, but I think we can do so much more. So in my view, the motor car is actually holding the world back because it still takes so much of our time away. And time, to me, is the most valuable resource we have.

If you think about it, most of the wealthiest people in the world don’t drive, because it is so much more convenient to be driven around, in spite of the expense.

The great thing is, the luxury of being driven around is about to become available to everyone in the world, at a fraction of the cost.

There are 3 technologies converging right now that are set to revolutionise the way we get around. Over the next decade, we are set to see this impact upon our lives as much as the smartphone has done in the 7 years since the first iPhone launched.

The first of the 3 technologies is a new way of summoning and interacting with taxis. If you haven’t tried services like Uber, Hailo or Lyft, you are missing a window into the future of service consumption. To be able to summon a taxi anytime, anywhere, at the touch of a button and for them to be able to find you from your smartphone location is truly incredible. For you to know exactly where your taxi is, and how many minutes it will take to arrive, makes the technology much more useful.

The second piece of technology rising at the moment is the electric car. The car voted the best in the world right now is actually electric: the Tesla Model S. This car signifies a step change in both battery performance and charging performance, so that electric cars make sense for the first time.

Tesla have plans to launch a car in the next 3 years that is both fully electric and cheap. Every single car manufacturer is now developing fully electric technology, so the price will come down, and come down fast. There are far fewer moving parts than in a traditional car, so once the technology matures, electric cars can technically become much cheaper than traditional cars. The most expensive part of electric cars is the battery and interestingly, battery costs are plummeting to a point where the range and cost are starting to make a lot of sense. The lifetime ownership costs of an electric car are already considerably cheaper than a traditional car. That gap will keep widening.

Then, the final of the 3 technologies, and possibly the most revolutionary of them all: the self -driving car. Companies like Google have already proved that the technology works over hundreds of thousands of miles without incident. If you want to see this technology in action, watch this inspiring Youtube clip


Most major car manufacturers are working on the technology. Tesla plan to launch it by 2017 and Google is more than technically able to launch a saleable self driving car by that date as well.

The real ‘driver’ of this shift to self-driving cars will be safety, and increasingly, governments will legislate towards increasing safety standards for cars. According to the World Health Organisation, 1.4 million road traffic deaths occurred in 2010. A big problem that self-driving cars can solve. They are already far, far safer than cars driven by humans. The time will come when it will be illegal to drive in some places, and in others, you will struggle to insure your car if you drive it yourself.

There is another benefit of this technology. A large amount of the bulk of a car is for keeping passengers safe in a crash. But what if they were built like aircraft? Planes are designed to avoid crashing, rather than to survive a crash, which allows them to be much, much lighter. We can radically reduce the materials we need to build them, making them far cheaper as a result.

The biggest costs associated with taxis are the driver’s wages and the fossil fuels used: two costs set to disappear in the future. After the convergence of these technologies, we are left with a lightweight autonomous electric taxi that is always available and costs much less than a bus fare to use. It could even be free in exchange for advertising, like many other services in this modern age.

The average family car, driving a typical distance, costs about 60 pence (roughly $1) per mile to operate. By the end of the decade, it is technically possible to get ‘the taxi of tomorrow’ to operate at fraction of this price, with no significant loss in convenience. To me, that changes everything – we are on the cusp of a transport revolution.

The upside of this technology convergence is that millions of lives will be saved, and billions of people will become more mobile in a much more sustainable way. That is set to radically improve the lives of the entire human race.

It will take a fraction of the number of cars to sustain all our transport needs; a fraction of the amount of energy to move us around. It will have huge effects on industries such as parking and public transport, and will radically change the way we commute and work.

Just as people still own horses and classic cars, some people will still own and drive cars, just for the love of it. The difference is – it will not be necessary. Given the benefits, people will give up their cars in droves, just as they gave up their horses in years gone by.

And I, for one, can’t wait for that to happen. I am having too much fun to be stuck behind the wheel of my car!

Marc

P.S. I am interested in raising a prize fund of $1 million for the first working demonstration of the ‘Taxi of Tomorrow’ in my island community of Guernsey. If anyone else is interested in talking about this, please get in touch.

(Disclosure: I own shares in both Google and Tesla. Google owns shares in Uber)

 

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  1. electric cars yes – but where does the electricity come from to charge them? if we all bought them tomorrow the grid would collapse. There is an advantage to be had here though, if we all had our own personal solar power stations we could recharge our own electric cars – and how about then connecting all of our cars into the grid so the cars battery becomes part of our own energy reserve for our own homes and would help the power generation grid balance demand and supply overnight. Each car could have a small reserve that the nation could store excess energy in and then draw it back out if needed.

  2. taxis are terrific and these innovations are excellent, so much so that my business (BrightMove Media) has developed the worlds first intelligent digital advertising screens on London black taxis. Whizzing round London right now is a small (but growing) fleet of taxis with a dual sided digital LED screen on the rooftop that delivers advertising according to the time of day/week, geographic location and even weather conditions. I hope that innovation in taxis continues for many years to come.

    Sorry for the flagrant promotion of my own business, but we don’t get many taxi blogs worth hailing!!!

    • Piers, I liked your hijacking of Marc’s blog with your taxi advertising response, very cheeky. I’m only jealous because I didn’t add my web site to my own response because being an Engineer I fully failed to recognise the opportunity!! well I thought I’d remedy the situation – for a fabulous patented solution to charging your own electric car at home see http://www.befreepower.com

    • There is no advertising on this blog. If you wanted to add value to humanity consider how the business you have created can be structured to provide free public transport for everyone when these new technologies converge.

  3. Hi Marc
    The future clearly doesn’t love cars like I do. OK I am not saying that “cars” cant be better, greener and safer but I love my old cars and I get a lot of personal satisfaction by working on them in my spare time. I love fixing things and restoring back to new or better condition (its a kind of recycling you know!) and my old VW Beetles are unlike modern cars in that they can be fixed without a computer or a degree in wiring or electronics etc.
    Some peoples enjoyment may come from gardening, reading or hitting a little white ball with a big stick but mine comes from fixing up my old cars and I think its rather constructive compared to looking at a LCD screen!
    I also enjoy driving my cars and mostly don’t want to have a virtual driver in a hat taking me around. I only live 2 miles from work and I enjoy getting in and out of my car when I choose to. I like driving the way to work that I want to go (roadworks excepted!!) and if I fancy seeing the sea on the way home then I’ll take a de-tour.
    I hope the future isn’t as bland as you’d suggest – anyway I’ll be toasted by then 🙂
    Like your emails – keep em coming!
    V Bests
    Chris

    • This will probably happen well before you are toasted Chris. I am sure there will be a place or places for enthusiasts. I am also sure that the future will not be bland just because people don’t drive. Many more will have time for their imagination to flourish as a result of this newfound freedom.

  4. mamokhethi says

    Wow! I can not wait for those electric cars, I think they will comprise of all transport measurements that is, reliability,flexibility,safety and ability to complete a service. Hey! I’m tired of changing taxis without a complete service. This innovation is wonderfull. I like it! Thank you.

  5. The big issue is that the “taxi of tomorrow” still gets stuck in the growing traffic jams around the world.

    We need to radically re-think how we live and work to minimise travel and create better connections and experiences virtually or with those that live near us.

    Imagine the huge saving in time, stress and resources if we halved the billions of hours and pounds wasted every year by the daily commute.

    • Hey Jonathan,

      I didn’t mention the taxi for the day after tomorrow…The same thing but in the air. The electric autonomous flying taxi. That should get rid of the traffic problem but it may take a decade longer to come to fruition.

      This is one of many technology streams. How we live and work will radically change for this and many other reasons.

      At this level it makes the commute productive so those lost hours will be recovered.

      Marc

  6. Hi Marc, great article – Guernsey is the perfect testing ground for the taxi(s) of tomorrow and buses for that matter! We have an unbelievably bad bus service at the moment, whereas given the scale of the island we should have a super efficient service where smartphone apps and public displays show users where the buses are and when they will reach their stop etc. We should also have live monitoring of traffic conditions so drivers can plan routes more efficiently etc etc….

    • Hi Matt,
      Thanks for getting in touch Matt. There is actually a bus app that is being worked on that should be released soon. A group of people came together on Twitter a couple of weeks ago and made it happen with the bus company for free. This is what The Dandelion Project is all about http://dandelion.gg . I suggest you get involved to help make the change you want to see in the world happen. It isn’t that hard to do. Marc

  7. Hi Marc

    It would be great to hear your thoughts on how bicycles, scooters and motorbikes fit into your vision. The demand for bikes of all types is growing fast and cycling is the greenest and healthiest form of transport. Whilst electric/hybrid/pedelec bicycles and motorbikes are pushing forward the technology (check out the Gocycle http://www.gocycle.com, which already looks like the future), I think we’re someway off self-piloted two wheeled vehicles. Will these methods of getting around be resigned to the “hobby” areas?

    Thanks,

    Stephen

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