Do Robotaxis Actually Have Any Hope?


    We have now dropped quite a lot of digital ink on the subject of robotaxis up to now a number of years. I’ve to confess that I used to be as soon as extra bullish about them than I’m now, even because the expertise marches on and new milestones are set. However in all of this time, I really feel like one aspect of the argument hasn’t usually been nicely expressed or completely expressed. Effectively, it’s extra of a “each of this stuff can’t be true” argument.

    In a latest remark thread beneath one in every of my articles, the reader “citizenjs” wrote what I’d say is a superb touch upon this subject. It’s easy and pretty easy, however thorough and nicely defined. And it’s merely written in a method that I discover it onerous to refute. Right here’s their remark:

    By citizenjs

    The way in which I see it, there’s one thing of a problem with the proposition that TAAS [Transportation as a Service] shall be actually, actually low cost (some say cheaper than public transit fares) and on the similar time shall be actually, actually worthwhile. In the event you have a look at Lyft and Uber, they’re cheaper than conventional taxi companies, however they’re nowhere close to as low cost as TAAS is projected to be. And neither Lyft or Uber may be very worthwhile (the truth is, each have misplaced cash for a lot of their existence). Now the straightforward reply is that TAAS would have decrease labor bills, however Lyft and Uber have already got fairly low labor bills, and so they’ve additionally outsourced all duty for automobile buy, gas, upkeep, automobile cleansing, and many others. to the identical undercompensated “impartial contractors” (who in lots of markets are making little or no in spite of everything bills, particularly when together with automobile depreciation). And TAAS would profit from decrease automobile working prices than present ICE prices, however these nonetheless gained’t be trivial. So if TAAS is basically low cost, the place do the income come from? And if TAAS isn’t actually low cost, the place will all the additional riders come from?

    If TAAS can undercut experience hailing costs (and it appears probably that it may, however once more, by how a lot?), then you definately would assume that extra individuals would select to make use of that as an alternative of proudly owning their very own automobiles. However however, TAAS shall be competing with private automobile possession that may probably be considerably cheaper than private automobile possession is at the moment (capital, vitality, and upkeep prices are all projected to be decrease than that of ICE automobiles, though “fueling” may be much less handy for individuals with out charging at house). So the mileage breakpoint at which private possession is cheaper than TAAS is probably not a lot totally different than it’s now with ICE possession vs. experience hailing, and if that’s the case, then TAAS gained’t grow to be a dominant selection, besides possibly in locations like dense cities the place automobile possession is unusually costly and inconvenient.

    Featured photograph: AutoX BYD robotaxi fleet in Shenzhen, courtesy of NVIDIA & AutoX.


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